A successful entrepreneur in the mushroom industry, Jaakko Kaunismaa is a man in his prime. At just 37 years of age, he is shocked when his doctor tells him that he’s dying. What is more, the cause is discovered to be prolonged exposure to toxins; in other words, someone has slowly but surely been poisoning him. Determined to find out who wants him dead, Jaakko embarks on a suspenseful rollercoaster journey full of unusual characters, bizarre situations and unexpected twists. With a nod to Fargo and the best elements of the Scandinavian noir tradition, The Man Who Died is a page-turning thriller brimming with the blackest comedy surrounding life and death, and love and betrayal, markinng a stunning new departure for the King of Helsinki Noir. . ‘I was glued to this book. It made me laugh and grimace at times, and also made me sad.
As part of #Orentober, I’m resharing my review of this deliciously dark thriller.
Many thanks to the author, Orenda Books and blog tour organiser Anne Cater for the ARC copy of The Man Who Died in return for an honest review.
It’s not always guaranteed that a book in translation works outside the language it was originally written in, but this darkly funny and original story is an utter triumph. It’s compelling, intelligent, packed full of atmosphere and will make you smile, it will even make you laugh. Scandinavian Noir is not normally known for its comic element and this is what makes The Man Who died such a new and imaginative creation.
If you’re worried that the comedy element will ruin your enjoyment, because you read this genre for its edgy darkness, fear not, for it has this in abundance as well. Reading this book is like enjoying your very favourite choice of food, but adding a new ingredient, the balance and flavours are different, better, enhanced and deliciously appetizing.
From page one to the conclusion I was addicted to the story of Jaakko Kaunismaa who faces his own death, when he discovers he has been poisoned over a period of time by an unknown assailant. I smugly thought I had worked out who had poisoned the unsuspecting Jaakko, worked it out from the clues in the story, oh, how wrong was I, writer Antti Tuomainen is far too clever to reveal the guilty party so easily! He takes you down one road, smacks you with a literary u turn and only when he has beguiled you with unexpected twists and turns, do you find out who it is that wants Jaakko dead.
The novel is full of amazing characters, quirky individuals who each play a part in this very different thriller. From the yet to die victim, bear with me, his death is promised, to his fellow mushroom obsessed employees and crazy murderous competitors. You are never going to be bored by this cast of unusual characters.
As for those traditional elements you enjoy so much, all the twists and turns propel the story forward at a thrilling speed. You are sat on the edge of your seat, book in hand, turning pages over without pause, needing to know who is responsible for all that befalls Jaakko. While at its core the novel retains a darkness that envelops you the reader in it’s chilling embrace. You may find yourself laughing at some of the events, but the comedy is dark and shows human relationships at their worst.
I adored this book. Its differences from more traditional Scandinavian Noir were exciting. You get everything you love from this genre, but with an altogether more original element. It’s stunning and will stay with me for a long time. I will be very surprised if this book does not feature in my top reads of 2017.
A special mention goes to David Hackston for the superb translation from Finnish to English.
Antti Tuomainen (b. 1971) was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011 Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. The Finnish press labeled The Healer – the story of a writer desperately searching for his missing wife in a post-apocalyptic Helsinki – ‘unputdownable’. Two years later in 2013 they crowned Tuomainen “The king of Helsinki Noir” when Dark as my Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen is one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula.
“Antti Tuomainen is a wonderful writer. His characters, plots and atmosphere are masterfully drawn.”
Antti Tuomainen can be followed on Twitter