Onni Syrjänen
Created by Tapani Bagge

ONNI SYRJÄNEN, Finnish crimewriter Tapani Bagge's not very successful lawyer, is a sad sack drunk too poor to hire a detective. So he does his own gumshoeing. He lives and works in Kerava, a small railroad town near Helsinki, the capital of Finland.

Onni's office is on the first floor of one of the three skyscrapers that define the otherwise quite flat Kerava midtown, and he drives an old East German clunker called a Wartburg (Honest!). Onni is well acquainted with the assorted petty local criminals who not only constitute his client base but are also often his old school chums and drinking buddies.These include such colourful local riff raff as his cousins, Make and Jamppa Hakkinen, and their old man -- all professional, if not always very competent, burglars.

In fact, incompetence might be considered one of the running themes of this series. Nothing goes right -- ever. Things fall apart, and few people, and particularly Onni, rise to the challange. No wonder everyone drinks.

The Hakkinens appear in "Kasvot betonissa" ("The Face in the Concrete"), the first outing of Onni, but the author assures us it won't be the last time for any of them. The Hakkinen brothers actually made their crime fiction debut almost two decades earlier in a short story called "Maanantai" ("Monday") that appeared in Rikos Palat, the last surviving Finnish pulp magazine (which, alas, died the same year). In 1995 Bagge wrote "Kovan onnen viikko" ("Hard Luck Week"), a seven-part radio play featuring the brothers for YLE, the Finnish Public Broadcasting Company. "Kasvot betonissa" was adapted as a radio play in 2006. So far Tapani has written four short stories and a 42-part newspaper serial about Onni in Finnish. He's planning on a novel, and a comic book version of Onni's misadventures is also on the works with artist Anssi Rauhala.  

"The Face in the Concrete" actually made its debut on these pages. It didn't come out in Finland before 2007, where it was a part of a short story collection with the same name. So far the author has published five crime novels in Finnish, with the sixth one coming in the summer 2008. Even better, Tapani assures us, is that PointBlank is planning to publish them in English.



Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Much thanks to Juri Nummelin for playing the go-between.

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