Helena Halme: The Red King of Helsinki: Lies, Spies and Gymnastics

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Helena Halme The Red King of Helsinki: Lies, Spies and Gymnastics
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    The Red King of Helsinki: Lies, Spies and Gymnastics
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    Helena Halme
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    Шпионский детектив / на английском языке
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The Red King of Helsinki: Lies, Spies and Gymnastics: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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He’s a rookie spy chasing a violent Russian KGB man. She’s a young student looking for a friend who has mysteriously disappeared. Can he save her? It’s the height of the Cold War and Finland is the playground of the Russian KGB. A former Royal Navy officer Iain is asked to work undercover. He’s to investigate Vladislav Kovtun, a violent KGB spy, dubbed The Red King of Helsinki by the Finnish secret service. This is Iain’s first assignment, and when he discovers the bodies left in Kovtun’s wake, he quickly gets embroiled in danger. Young student Pia has two goals in life: she dreams of a career in gymnastics and she wants Heikki, a boy in her class with the dreamiest blue eyes, to notice her. But when her best friend, Anni, the daughter of an eminent Finnish Diplomat, goes missing, Pia begins to investigate the mystery behind her disappearance. Unbeknown to Pia, Kovtun, The Red King of Helsinki, is watching her every move, as is the British spy, Iain. Will Iain be able to save Pia before it’s too late? The Red King of Helsinki is a Cold War spy story set in Finland during one freezing week in 1979. If you like Nordic Noir, you will love this fast moving Nordic spy story by the Finnish author Helena Halme. Pick up The Red King of Helsinki to discover this chilling Finnish spy tale today!

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Helena Halme




Iain watched on the snow-covered jetty as a small tugboat slowly piloted HMS Newcastle into Helsinki South Harbour, frozen but for a jagged shipping lane cutting between thick sheets of ice. He’d been following the gradually expanding navigation lights for over an hour while the faint winter sun rose above the Gulf of Finland.

The snowfall had made the day’s copy of Helsingin Sanomat folded under his arm limp. Iain shivered as he placed the paper inside his thick winter coat and pulled the collar further up around his ears. A glance at his watch showed 08:06. They were on time at least. He stamped his feet. The Finns say the coldest winds blow from Siberia, and this morning Iain understood what they meant. Even the weather from the mighty Soviet Union was a bully to its small neighbour.

Finally the ship docked and Iain climbed onboard. He nodded at a Sub Lieutenant, who bounced down the gangway and told Iain to follow him. He looked like a child, with a freshly scrubbed pink face, and at the last minute Iain remembered not to salute him. He kept forgetting he was a civilian now. But the ship, with its musty smell, a combination of salty seawater and diesel oil, made him feel at home. ‘Good passage?’

‘Yes Sir,’ replied the officer, showing Iain into a small cabin.

The Colonel was bent over a tiny desk in the corner, his back to Iain.

‘Welcome to Helsinki, Sir,’ Iain said. Again the desire to stand to attention overtook him, and he half lifted his hand, but placed it down before it reached the side of his head.

‘Ah, Collins. You look cold and wet. Is it really that bad out there?’

Iain ignored this jibe and looked around the cabin. It was a small space, but a luxury for any officer onboard. There was a small porthole, ‘heads’ and crisp white linen on the bunk. The Colonel nodded towards a chair and Iain sat down.

‘Well?’ the Colonel said. His cheeks had broken veins and in the harsh overhead light of the cabin he looked old and weary.

‘Sir, page five, bottom right-hand corner.’ Iain handed the Colonel the damp Helsingin Sanomat. The short article was buried amongst domestic news.

‘A woman, aged 29, was found dead on Tehtaankatu late yesterday morning. It has been confirmed as the body of a Soviet citizen, employed as a temporary administrative assistant at the Embassy. According to the official source the woman died of natural causes.’

The Colonel considered the page. Iain watched his eyes as he scanned the print and spotted the small, insignificant notice. After a brief moment, he handed the paper back to Iain without saying a word. He crossed his hands over his considerable belly and leant back in his chair. Iain wondered if the Colonel’s Finnish was sufficient for him to understand the meaning of the words.

‘Don’t know if it’s significant, but brought it along in case.’

‘Hmm, well done,’ the Colonel said.

‘I wasn’t sure if I should have contacted the paper?’

‘No, of course not. We’ll look into it.’ The Colonel looked at his hands, then up at Iain, ‘How’s the surveillance going?’

‘Well, Sir.’

There was a silence and Iain wondered if he was supposed to make a move to leave the cabin and the Colonel. But the Colonel handed Iain a green folder.

‘Try to find out more about this man, Jukka Linnonmaa. He’s just come back from Moscow and we need to know how active he is. He might get in the way.’

Iain opened the file.

‘Take it home and read it. There’s the address, wife’s name, any family connections, that sort of thing. Have a little look at his place, see where he goes.’

‘Yes Sir,’ Iain said.

‘You’ll soon get the hang of it. Report back to me daily.’

The Colonel got up, and Iain followed his example.

‘And Collins,’ The Colonel said when Iain was at the door, ‘try not to come onboard too often – once more to welcome us into town on behalf of the British Council, and perhaps when we leave to wave us goodbye, is the norm.’

‘Yes, Sir,’ Iain said. The Sub Lieutenant had reappeared outside the cabin.

‘Goodbye, Sir,’ the young officer said and saluted Iain as he made his way back down the gangway.

The city was quiet – only the noise of the tram trundling down from Ullanlinna broke the downy silence that the freshly fallen snow had created. Iain sighed and stuffed the folder inside his coat. With hands deep in the pockets, he walked briskly up the South Esplanade. People were hurrying to work, huddled against the cold wind. It was already ten o’clock and still not full daylight. The Esplanade Park looked grey. The bare trees were heavy with last night’s snowfall. Only a narrow path in the middle of the park had been cleared and sanded. He wondered if the sun was going to show itself today. It was February. At least the days were slowly growing longer, though in this kind of morning twilight, midnight sun seemed impossible.

Iain wondered what the hell he thought he was doing. Had it not been for the money, he’d never have accepted a job like this. But he now realised he’d also fallen for the flattery. The Colonel had been complementary when they met in a stuffy office at the British Embassy in Helsinki. Iain had never been inside the Embassy before. It was a beautiful white house on a leafy street in Ullanlinna. Had it not been so cold, Iain would have walked there, up the hill from the Council. But it had been a dull January morning, with a bitter northerly wind. So Iain rode the tram up three stops from Erottaja to Puistotie. The meeting was arranged to discuss the forthcoming British naval visit to Helsinki. Iain assumed he’d be told to arrange the appropriate, low-key publicity in the Finnish press. He’d wondered if the visit was organised to silence the reports running in the Western press about planned Finnish joint military exercises with the Soviet Union. Even the long-standing President Kekkonen, who was rarely directly quoted in the press these days, had given a televised interview just before Christmas to counter the press reports. Political and military neutrality was taken very seriously in Finland.

The Colonel had offered him a drink, ‘Whisky and soda?’

It was barely eleven o’clock.

‘So, how long have you been in Helsinki?’ the Colonel had sat down heavily opposite Iain.

‘Just over five months.’

‘Your wife was born in Finland?’

‘Yes.’ Iain looked down at his hands and added, ‘ex-wife.’

‘I see.’

There was a brief silence. Iain had studied the Colonel closely on that first meeting. Mrs Cooper at the Council had hinted he was an important man in Helsinki. His build was heavy and he was in his late forties, or perhaps early fifties. His fair hair was thinning at the top. He wore half-moon glasses and was softly spoken, with the kind of low, commanding voice you’d expect from an Army officer.

A voice that would carry far on the parade ground.

He was studying a black file.

‘Now then,’ he began, ‘you’re ex-Navy, fairly recently retired?’

‘Six months February.’

‘Her Majesty must be sorely missing you already,’ the Colonel looked up and smiled, ‘we could use more officers like you.’

Iain had felt his cheeks redden. When he resigned, no one had asked him to stay. The Colonel was reading from his file. First Iain felt the flattery, then something else. Like a noose tightening around his neck. What was this all about?

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