The children of Josef
November 15th, 2009
Crime novelist Marko Kilpi works as a policeman. His debut novel, Frozen Roses, was awarded The Clue of the Year crime fiction prize. Kilpi's second crime novel, Outbreak, is shortlisted for the Finlandia Prize.

By Marko Kilpi (Stilton author)

In my work I meet a lot of very bad people, as do you. Daily. They are not drug addicts, killers or other kinds of hardened criminals. They are ordinary people. Like you and me.

Isn’t it strange that crimes whose depravity shocks us and shakes the very foundations of our society are often committed by ordinary people? These people may not even have a criminal record: they are ordinary folks, working family men, sometimes juveniles and school children. The recent years have yielded many examples of this. One of the most shocking could be found in Austria. The depraved acts of an elderly man called Josef placed him in one fell swoop right up there with the Saddams and Adolfs of this world. He didn’t need to commit genocide to achieve this status, unlike Saddam and Adolf. The depravity shown by him towards his own child and the grandchildren was enough.

The evil must be hidden. It is however an essential part of our humanity, and unlikely to stay hidden forever. Every once in a while we have to stop and contemplate less serious wrongdoings, such as the sending of inappropriate text messages, the groping of air hostesses by elected members of parliament, and other inappropriate acts that interfere with our daily decorum. We think, that the evil resides elsewhere: in newspaper headlines, in politicians, in other people, in faraway lands. But luckily not here, in our own backyard.

But we all have evil in us. It is everywhere we go. Why that should be, no one knows. Perhaps we should accept the fact that we don’t need to know everything. If we imagine that we always behave as we should - in a correct and blameless manner – the alarm bells would be ringing loud and clear. If that case, we may have ventured too far along the path of self-belief and indifference to realise our own insufficiency and vanity. It is healthier to accept the evil in us, rather than try desperately to hide it. Evil makes us human as much as good does. It will not wash off with the best of washing powders.

I sometimes try to introduce evil in the middle of everyday situations. I do it to provide a focal point and wake-up call so that we can spot the evil among us. It has all kinds of consequences and I have on occasions even found myself being prosecuted. Where is evil in the end? The evil inside the strong walls of a home often remains hidden, underneath a veneer of normality. But this is where the worst atrocities can take place. This much we know without having to ask Josef’s children.

Marko Kilpi tells about Olli Repo, the main character of his crime fiction novels Frozen Roses and Outbreak: