Veijo Baltzar’s 1988 mystery novel Käärmeenkäräjäkivi [The Snake Trial Stone] explores personal and collective ethics. It is reminiscent of both a detective story (‘whodunit’) and, thanks to its powerfully dramatic scenes and vivid dialogue, a play.
The novel starts with the mystery of a green and slimy stone that appears in the cottage of a family and is believed to be a magic stone bringing wealth and health to its owner. When the entire family gathers to discuss the stone, it suddenly disappears.
An intensive inquiry into who has snatched the stone gets underway and every member of the family is suspected and tested in turn. The furious battle over prestige and power involves different tactics such as attacking, plotting, cunning and evasion. At the same time, the family members go through personal struggles, vacillating between virtue and vice.
Critics praised the novel for its density of expression. The belief in ‘snake trial stones’ as magic objects originates in Finnish folklore. An excerpt from the book has been translated from Finnish into English by Jyri Kokkonen (‘The Snake Trial Stone’) but has not been published.
Sources of text samples
Finnish: Baltzar, Veijo. 1988. Käärmeenkäräjäkivi. Helsinki. Tammi, pp. 38-40.
English: Baltzar, Veijo. 2017. Käärmeenkäräjäkivi Pages 38-49. The Snake Trial Stone, translated from Finnish by Jyri Kokkonen. Excerpt, unpublished. Excerpt of first three pages corresponding to p.38-40 of the Finnish original.