When we last saw Helsinki police officer Jessica Niemi, she had solved a heinous spate of murders and escaped—or so it seemed—the clutches of a coven of witches.
But alas, life isn’t always so easily wrapped up in a happy ever after ending and poor Jessica has to deal with those darn witches again in The Ice Coven, the second novel published in English by Finnish author Max Seeck. His first, Witch Hunters, made the New York Times Bestseller list.
It’s only been six months since Jessica and the Helsinki police were able to breathe a sigh of relief and deal just with everyday crime. But now as they hunt for two popular social media influencers who have disappeared, it slowly becomes apparent that there’s again a supernatural force at work against them. Seeck has the ability to interweave complicated plots and tie them all neatly together at the end. In The Ice Coven, the police are facing a case with a wide range of weird stuff that includes human trafficking, frog toxin, bizarre murders, and somnophilia—an odd sexual obsession of those who like to watch people sleep.
Interestingly, Seeck’s interest in writing Nordic Noir stems from the mid-1990s when he watched Agatha Christie movies with his grandmother including those featuring her famed detective Hercule Poirot. It seems like a large leap between those gentile English mysteries and a series of violent killings and witchcraft. But Seeck views it all—both Christie and his own stories—as similar.
“It was magical—the mystery, the tension, and finally the solution to the case,” is how he describes those days of binging on Agatha Christie. And indeed, there’s lots of tension as we worry about what will happen next. Even Seeck is on edge as he writes.
“I like a blurry, icy scene, a setting where eerie figures are looking at you,” he says as we chat on Skype—he in Helsinki and me in the Midwest. “The fictional characters are afraid. So am I. And so, I hope is the reader.”
I tell him not to worry about the latter. At least this reader was very afraid and yet compelled to keep turning the page.
Setting his novels (there’s a third Jessica book coming out in 2022) in Helsinki is reflective of Seeck’s ability to “think cinematically.”
“There are two sides to Helsinki as there are in any city,” he says. “In the summer it is a beautiful and exciting city, full of life and full of people who enjoy life. However, in the winter, it is very dark and cold, making it a terrific location for dark and icy thrillers.”