© Otava / Jouni Harala

Matti Yrjänä Joensuu


Matti Joensuu (1948-2011) rose to fame as the Finnish winner of the major Nordic detective story competition. Joensuu, who was a criminal investigator for the Helsinki Police Department, describes the day-to-day life of the policemen as realistically as is possible, in a way which no research study or report has yet been able to do. His crime novels break the barriers of conventional thrillers: by virtue of their realism and literary merits they clearly stand out from all the ‘entertainment’ in the field. He respects people and life, and is able to see the human side of even the most hardened criminal. His character portraits are humane, and the mess and violence which occur in his books are just as repulsive as they are in real life. Joensuu shows what unspeakable suffering is caused by every act of violence and how many people, even outsiders, may suffer from it.

Matti Joensuu was a police officer himself. He has always been a perceptive and realistic voice, showing in his novels the blunt social realities behind the crimes his detective is called upon to resolve. Joensuu has been the recipient of numerous prizes, and his works have been translated into 16 languages. Joensuu’s series concerning the work of investigator Timo Harjunpää now comprises ten books. The latest one The Iron Chamber came out in the fall 2010.

One film, 4 television series, 4 radio series and 4 stage plays all based on books by Matti Joensuu have been made so far. A new box-office movie based on The Priest of Evil was released in 2010, and the rights for the latest title The Iron Chamber have been sold, too.


Press quotes

Joensuu is the crime novelist whose works raised the entire genre to the position it deserves. The best in Joensuu’s prose writing is at once the simplest and the most difficult of tasks: seeing into a person and observing faithfully his or her mind-set and emotions. – Helsingin Sanomat

Harjunpää was an important forerunner of Wallander. – Independent

Joensuu has a totally distinctive voice. – CrimeSquad.com/S.W.

The undercurrents that the author is able to touch upon here render this a truly disturbing experience. – Crime Time/Judith Gray

A former investigator with the Helsinki Police Department Matti Joensuu knows more about his subject than most crime novelists. – Independent

And he can write as well as any of them. – Idependent

It is an enjoyable and thought-provoking read. – New Books

Once more Joensuu disturbs with the tender but sinister precision of his portrait. In person far more of a Morse than a Rebus, he crafts richly atmospheric, psychologically probing mysteries to test and stretch his investigator, DS Harjunpää. – Independent/B. Tonkin

From the early chapter you know that a considerable writer is at work, writing from a lifetime personal experience of disintegrating humanity. – Bob Cornwell/Tangled Web



  • Harjunpää and the Pyromaniac (Harjunpää ja pyromaani) 1978
  • Harjunpää and Captain Karhu (Harjunpää ja kapteeni Karhu) 1981
  • Harjunpää and the Molester (Harjunpää ja ahdistelija) 1982
  • Harjunpää and the Stone Murders (Harjunpää ja poliisin poika) 1983
  • Harjunpää and the Kinsfolk (Harjunpää ja heimolaiset) 1984
  • Harjunpää and the Laws of Love (Harjunpää ja rakkauden lait) 1985
  • Harjunpää and the Troublemakers (Harjunpää ja kiusantekijät) 1986
  • Harjunpää and the Hunger for Love / To Steal Her Love (Harjunpää ja rakkauden nälkä) 1993 (short-listed for the Finlandia Prize)
  • Harjunpää and the Priest of Evil (Harjunpää ja pahan pappi) 2003
  • Harjunpää and the Iron Chamber (Harjunpää ja rautahuone) 2010



  • The Big Nordic Contest for Detective Stories (winner of the Finnish contest) 1976
  • State Literary Prize in 1982
  • The Clue of the Year Award 1985
  • Svenska Deckarakademins stora pris 1987 (in Sweden)
  • Short-listed for the Finlandia Prize 1993
  • The Clue of the Year Award 1994 and 2004
  • Short-listed for the Glass Key Award in Sweden 2005
  • Nominated for the 2008 international IMPAC Dublin Literary Award


Works published in / Rights sold to:

Germany (Random House/btb)
Italy (Elliot edizioni)
Netherlands (Querido)
Bulgaria (Fliorer)
Poland (Punkt)
France (Gallimard/Série Noire)
UK  (Arcadia Books)
Armenia (Guitank)
Latvia (Dienas Gramata)
Sweden (BonnierAlba)
Denmark (Klim)
Norway (Eide)
Holland (Uitgeverij Signature)
Estonia (Eesti Raamat, 1998)


Published books