Indrek Hargla is the best Estonian writer in the field of science fiction, fantastic horror and heroic fantasy. He has gained fame home and abroad with his historical crime novels staged in medieval Tallinn.
His pseudonym, Hargla, originates from a South Estonian place of his lineage, a space of especially beautiful and interesting nature and mixed ethnic origin of Latvians and Estonians, even with its own religion composed of Christianity and the remnants of old beliefs of the pre-Christian time. The cultural history of this region has inspired Hargla with its “forest poetry“, as he has called it.
The writer was born in 1970 and made his debut in the Internet journal of the Estonian Science Fiction Association, Algernon, in 1998. He is a very prolific author with very original way of thinking, new ideas and abundant imagination.
His first collection of stories, Nad tulevad täna öösel! (They Will Come Tonight!, 2000), gathers texts belonging to these three genres and reveals a high sense of narrative construction. Baiita needus (Baiita’s Curse, 2001) is a fascinating adventure and medieval witchcraft novel. Pan Grpowski 9 juhtumit (Nine Cases of Pan Grpowski, 2001) is centered on a Polish exorcist who fights across the world against evil spirits. The last story of Grpowski, Mees, kes ei joonud viskit (The Man Who Did Not Drink Whisky) was even anti-fantastic, beginning with a mystery and ending as a dramatic detective story. Grpowski, the exorcist, could also recognize the ghost hiding itself inside a man´s fears and desires.
Hargla has also brilliantly cultivated speculative history, imagining what the world would have become if certain decisive events had not happened. In these unlikely universes impregnated with magic he develops suspenseful stories, whether as a romantic journey to 16th-century Southern Europe, like Palveränd uude maailma (Pilgrimage to the New World, 2003), or humorous, like French ja Koulu (French and Koulu, 2005), which plays with the stereotypes of Estonian identity.
His works are interesting to readers who are not especially fond of science fiction as well: he is courageous in imagining, and keen in detective-story like solutions in his fantasy-world, with the truth finally explained at the very end by a character. This tightens the interest and the thrill greatly. This is a demanding genre, and Hargla deserves his reputation.
Hargla is also the composer and editor of the anthology of horror stories Õudne Eesti (Uncanny Estonia, 2005). Since 2010 he has dedicated himself to the history of the town of Tallinn, and is particularly fascinated with it.
Apteeker Melchior ja Oleviste mõistatus (Apothecary Melchior and the Mystery of St Olaf´s Church, 2010) is about 15th-century Tallinn, a town of foreign merchants, to be built to flourish. A senior knight of the German order coming from Visby is killed and a young, clever, and very inquisitive apothecary, Melchior, is asked to help in solving the mystery. Other murders follow, filling the town with horror, and the labyrinth of secrets leads Melchior into the heart of the ancient folk legends of the town and the Baltic Sea, the brotherhood on the sea called the Victual Brothers (Vitalienbrüder). These legends tell him about the legendary Klaus Störtebecker, who as a dangerous pirate has been put to death by the authorities, but some of his companions, among them Magister Wigbold, the Master of the Seven Arts, seem to have survived. In the middle of the mystery and the adventurous townscape, with its colourful citizens, stands the most beautiful Gothic church in Tallinn, partly under construction then, St. Olaf’s Church, which was in the 16th century the tallest building in the world, protected by the unique Brotherhood of Blackheads of bachelor merchants, who had the secret duty to serve and protect the castles and churches of the towns. The nerve-racking, thrilling and most unexpected conclusion comes on the very last pages of the book.
The inquisitive apothecary Melchior, the most thrilling self-appointed detective type, also solves murder mysteries in Hargla´s next novels and in a short story, Apteeker Melchior ja katustel tantsija (Apothecary Melchior and the Dancer on the Roofs, 2010).