When the Helsinki police arrive at the lakeside home of Maria Koponen, they find her dressed in a long black evening gown and high heels at the dining room table, her face contorted into a Joker-like smile. It’s an odd scene that turns eerie when they realize she is dead.
Arriving at the scene, policewoman Jessica Niemi briefly talks to one of the techs processing the scene and then, as he’s leaving, discovers that he isn’t part of the team. She quickly runs after him, but he’s disappeared, seemingly into nowhere.
As for Maria’s husband, Roger, he is hours away in Savonlinna giving a talk about his bestselling books, the Witch Hunt trilogy. The police chief in Savonlinna volunteers to drive him back to Helsinki and though it’s already late, they begin the long drive. At first all seems well, but then the Helsinki police lose contact with them and they never arrive at the station. A search along the road they were traveling turns up their burned bodies in the woods.
But is Roger Koponen really dead? A security camera at a passenger station picks up his image. Indeed, he seems to want to be recognized as he boldly stares straight into the lens.
“Basically the book tells a very creepy story about a murderous coven, that go after people they think are witches,” says Max Seeck, author of The Witch Hunter (Berkley 2020; $17), the first of his five books to be translated from Finnish to English. “All the murders are copied from a bestselling author’s trilogy.”
Creepy indeed. Not only are the victims killed in the same manner as in Koponen’ s books, as Niemi leads the investigative team in trying to stop any further deaths, but she also has to deal with her own dark past. The only survivor of a car accident that killed her parents and brother, she’s inherited a fortune but doesn’t want anyone to know. She has gone so far as to establish a small apartment—commensurate with what a lowly paid policewoman could afford–that has a door leading to the sumptuous living quarters where she really resides. But being wealthy isn’t her only secret. Years earlier she killed her abusive lover and only one person knows. That’s her boss, who is like a father to her. But he now is dying, leaving her vulnerable. That vulnerability increases when the other investigators on the case note that all the dead women–dark haired and beautiful–are similar in looks to Niemi.
It looks like the killers may be targeting Niemi and she’s ordered to stay home. But that’s not easy for her as she’s determined to solve the case.