Lauri Mäkinen: Shrewd as Snakes, Innocent as Doves

A nightly fire. A burned woman, a dead body. A struggle to save souls that turns into a struggle to stay alive.

Author: Lauri Mäkinen
Finnish original: Älykkäät kuin käärmeet, viattomat kuin kyyhkyset
Publisher: Siltala Publishing, 2015
Genre: literary fiction
Number of pages: 438 pp.
Reading material: Finnish original, English sampl
e, English Synopsis

Southwestern Africa, Ovamboland, November 1924. Chapel built by Finnish missionaries burns in the middle of the night. A badly burned woman lies in the yard, and an unknown charred corpse sits inside the chapel.

The event turns old pastor Tobias Johansson’s calm last years in the missionary field from a peaceful routine into a chaos. In an attempt to save an innocent woman from a death sentence, the pastor manages to dig up shady things that eventually change his faith, as well as of the whole missionary station.

Shrewed as Snakes, Innocent as Doves is a clever murder mystery that takes its reader to the 20s Ovamboland and the missionary workers’ colourful everyday life. Lutherans’, Catholics’ and Anglicans’ struggle for territories and for local inhabitants’ souls missionaries’ relations with kings’ courts, prophets’ intrigues and human motives that different parties have constitute a spicy thriller.

Shrewed as Snakes, Innocent as Doves is Lauri Mäkinen’s first novel, which was awarded as the best crime debut of the year and nominated for both Helsingin Sanomat Literature Prize and the Christian Book Prize.

“Lauri Mäkinen’s novel breaks genre boundaries in a courageous and fertile way. The book is not only a crime story, but also a mix of relationships and drama. Shrewd as Snakes, Innocent as Doves is an enjoyable reading experience, a dive into the past, particularly into the power struggle between religions and peoples.”
Turun Sanomat newspaper

Also available:
The Beginning of the End in D Minor (2022)
50/50 (2017)

About the author:
Lauri Mäkinen