Lead White

Jyrki Erra

Original title: Lyijyvalkoinen

Author: Jyrki Erra

Published: 2020

Publisher: Otava

Genre: Crime & Suspense

Pages: 488

Reading material:

English sample and synopsis, full Finnish manuscript

How many lives does a painting worth millions require before it reveals its secrets?

  • Winner of Best Crime Fiction Novel 2020
  • We recommend this novel to the fans of Dan Brown, John Le Carré and Umberto Eco

Axel Wallas is a Finnish painter and Caravaggio expert, who is asked by a professor of art history to advise on a painting that may be a masterpiece of Caravaggio himself. Axel is unable to give a definite answer on the painting’s authenticity.

The next morning the professor is found murdered and the painting is gone. Axel embarks on a journey where nothing is what it seems. Unexpectedly, Axel’s wife has also failed to return from her work trip in Rome and has left no clue as to where she is. Are the cases related? Axel travels to Italy in search of his spouse, but finds himself in the middle of a devastating power struggle. Will the trails lead to the real painting and to the revealing of the Caravaggio mystery?


“Erra masters magnificently the literary chiaroscuro, the contrast between light and shadow. The expertise on art history in Lead White convinces the reader. After reading the book, even the casual museum visitor will start looking not only at the pictorial motif but also at the harmony of different colour layers with keener eyes. Like in his earlier books, the depiction of the surroundings is splendid. The alleys, museums, and palaces are painted with considered strokes.” –Mika Rissanen, Kouvolan Sanomat Newspaper

“This art detective thriller that is constructed around the masterpiece by Michelangelo Caravaggio moves fluidly forward like an Italian little criminal on his scooter. The twists and turns are swift and the plot as intricate as the Sicilian courtly etiquette; yet the tranquil pace of the narration allows the reader to stay on board. –Ali Heikkilä, KMV Magazine

“Jyrki Erra’s third thriller strengthens his position as a noteworthy suspense novelist. Erra has made diligent background work which brings a sense of fullness and care. The book is also in a way down to earth throughout which is not that usual in the modern suspense genre. Lead White is not for the reader who looks for speed, sex and danger. The latter it is brimming with but the upmost impression is a sense of offering something refined, a desire to pass on something else to the reader than mere smooth entertainment.” – Pertti Avola, Helsingin Sanomat Newspaper

Download reading materials

Rights sold:
FINLAND: Otava (orig.)


About author

Jyrki Erra

Jyrki Erra, born in 1950, is an architect and an author. He lives and works in Helsinki with his spouse, who is also an architect.

As a counterbalance to his work as an architect and large design projects, in 2012 he published his first novel, a historical thriller named The Pages (Kaunasin sivut). This was followed in 2015 by The Hounds of Berlin (Berliinin ajokoirat), an espionage novel set during the final stages of the Cold War. Inspired by Roman events architecture and the discovery of a lost Caravaggio masterpiece, in 2020 he published Lead White.

“As an author, I like creating settings for my characters using very visual imagery. That anchors the action to reality. In the same way, I want to create a strong image of the main characters for the readers—I want to show them that these are real people.

“All three of my books include an internal narrative with a timeline completely different from the main story. This allows me to examine humanity from a temporal perspective, its fundamental nature, hopes, and passions, which are ultimately unchanging.”

“Fraud is a multifaceted crime that always contains or results in many other crimes. Fraud and deception are present in all my books. Everything else in the story is a consequence of that.”

In addition to short newspaper articles, Jyrki Erra has also written an architecture-focused history of the neighborhood where he lives. As an amateur painter, he seeks his subjects from the north: Northern Norway, Iceland, Svalbard, and Greenland.


2020, Crime & Suspense

Jyrki Erra

Lead White