Welcome to my stop on the Orenda Books’ blog tour for The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen.
About the book:
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, marking a stunning new departure for the King of Helsinki Noir.
I really enjoyed the unique and quirky premise of The Man Who Died (TMWD); Jaakko’s doctor tells him he’s been poisoned and in one short, sharp breath he finds out that he’s dying. What ensues is an engaging and compelling Nordic Noir crime novel, full of ingenuity.
Right from the start we see Jaakko face death head-on. Suddenly, he has to make choices – how to live and how to move forward, and with that comes a rawness and sensitivity to his character. As the plot unfolds, he believes his wife is guilty of murdering him, going on a hunt to find out the truth. He uncovers secrets he wish he never knew and we see how every decision he makes affects the short future he has ahead of him. This unique tale of love and betrayal is set to the backdrop of the mushroom farming industry; a completely fresh setting and perspective – definitely one that I’ve never read in crime fiction before.
At the heart of it, TMWD is about how we make sense of life, as well as how and why we come to terms with death, particularly our own. Because of this, Tuomainen captures a certain rawness as Jaakko faces his mortality, adding light to the darkness with swathes of dark humour and comedy. At times the comedy gets a little farfetched and extreme, but it contrasts the fragility so well that overall it creates a great equilibrium in the book.
I first picked up TMWD on a train journey from London to Leeds, and on arrival I was sad to put it down having had my head buried in it the whole way there. However, later that day on my return journey I got stuck back in and managed to finish it before pulling in to my station. For me, this is a sure-fire sign of a great book – every second spare I wanted to lap it up. I was engaged, gripped and entertained throughout. I’m sure it goes without saying that Tuomainen included plenty of twists and turns in TMWD; I genuinely thought I had it sussed until ¾ of the way through when I realised I was all wrong.
Finally, I would never have guessed that this is a translated work of fiction. It has been translated wonderfully – it’s effortless to read, with so many nuances and subtleties included, which I always think is the sign of a good translation.
If you’re looking for a crime novel that stands out, doesn’t take itself too seriously whilst making you question the meaning of life then I highly recommend The Man Who Died. Once again, this is another triumph for Orenda Books – I always love seeing what they publish, as Karen has such a keen eye for unique crime stories. I can tell you this, she hasn’t let us down here!
About Antti Tuomainen:
Finnish author Antti Tuomainen 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 labelled 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.
You can catch the other blog posts on the tour here:
I received a free copy of the book from the publishers in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.