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”), Onni’s first outing, 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 with artist Anssi Rauhala was also promised in 2008.

“The Face in the Concrete (“Kasvot betonissa”) actually made its debut on these pages. It didn’t come out in Finland until 2007, where it was a part of a short story collection with the same name. It was followed a few years later by “One More Shot,” also on Thrilling Detective. So far the author has published numerous crime novels in Finnish, including at least three featuring Onni Syrjänen.


Finnish writer Juha Tapani Bagge (born October 2, 1962, in Kerava) began writing full in 1983, and has published multiple novels, plays, as well as radio, comic and television scripts, radio plays. He has also translated a large number of American and British crime novels.



  • Kasvot tuulilasissa (2010)
  • Kasvot katuojassa (2011)
  • Kasvot hautakivessä (2019)


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

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