Novel set mainly in WW2 Auschwitz/Birkenau
Dark comedy thriller set in Finland
10th October 2017
The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen (translated by David Hackston) – dark comedy thriller set in Finland.
The Man Who Died is unlike any of Antti Tuomainen’s previous books. Yes, it is a thriller and yes, it is set in Finland. But it is also a dark comedy. The combination works surprisingly well, and makes for an intriguing read.
Jaakko is a successful wild mushroom entrepreneur. Four years ago he and his wife Taina moved from Helsinki to Hamina (a well described actual place on the coast 90 miles south west of the capital…) and set themselves up in the forest mushroom harvesting and processing business – exporting dried matsutake to Japan. They have had the market to themselves. Then strange events begin to unfold… The book opens with Jaakko in the doctor’s surgery being told he is being systematically poisoned, his vital organs have been irreparably damaged, and it is only a question of time before he dies. He decides to spend his last days working out who has done this to him. Is it his wife, who he discovers very early on in the book, is having an affair? Or is it Asko and his two somewhat dubious partners who are in the process of setting up a rival mushroom business – and have been talking to Jaakko’s Japanese clients? Or is it someone else entirely?
Over the course of the book, both of Asko’s dubious partners in turn disappear. Their disappearances are full of dark comedy. One body is found… The local police suspect Jaakko of being involved in an attempt to disrupt their new venture. An involvement he vehemently denies. He goes into hiding to see how events play out.
The book moves to a dramatic and satisfying climax, when all is revealed.
The Man Who Died is an excellent example of tongue in cheek writing. You cannot really believe the story (and I’m sure Antti doesn’t intend us to…), but he carries off its telling with panache. The thriller side works well alongside the dark comedy – even if the reader sometimes doesn’t know whether to be truly shocked at what is happening – or to burst out laughing… It challenges and jangles the emotions.
A very worthwhile, if somewhat unexpected, read.
Tony for the TripFiction team
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