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Saturday 24 February 2018

‘The Man Who Died’ by Antti Tuomainen

(Translated by David Hackston.)
Published by Orenda Books,
10 October 2017.
ISBN: 978-1-910663- 84-7 (PB)

Jaakko is thirty-seven, the owner of a successful mushroom business, overweight and a touch set in his ways. He’s also, his doctor has just told him, dying – of poisoning by a natural toxin. The doctor blames the mushrooms, but Jaako knows better, and he’s determined to find out who, and why, before he dies.

It’s a real hook of an opening – a dying man investigating his own murder – and the story continues at this rattling pace. Jaako is the narrator throughout, and we learn all about his life, and the people in it: his athletic wife, Taina, who started the business with him; Olli, the cynic, Sanni, the career girl, Raimo, the worrier and Petri, the driver. They’re all being approached by a rival business, led by Asko, and policed by his two thugs. A visit to the rival factory gets Jaakko in trouble with the police, and from then on his life spins increasingly out of control. He’s a likeable narrator – you sympathise with his problems, both during the investigations and in the vividly-described bouts of illness, and you want him to succeed in his quest. The story’s told with humour, and there are several unexpected plot twists leading up to a surprise ending. The Finnish small-town setting is vividly described: the houses, the marketplace, the gossip, everyone knowing everyone else, and, for a change from the usual setting, instead of a wintry landscape, it’s a sweltering summer.

A real page-turner of a plot, led by a sympathetic main character – Scandi noir narrated with Chris Brookmyre humour. Highly recommended.

Reviewer: Marsali Taylor

Finnish author Antti Tuomainen was born in Helsinki, Finland where he lives with his wife. He 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.

Marsali Taylor grew up near Edinburgh, and came to Shetland as a newly-qualified teacher. She is currently a part-time teacher on Shetland's scenic west side, living with her husband and two Shetland ponies. Marsali is a qualified STGA tourist-guide who is fascinated by history, and has published plays in Shetland's distinctive dialect, as well as a history of women's suffrage in Shetland. She's also a keen sailor who enjoys exploring in her own 8m yacht, and an active member of her local drama group.  Marsali also does a regular monthly column for the Mystery People e-zine.

Click on the title to read a review of her recent book Ghosts of the Vikings

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