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 was very lucky to win a fabulous giveaway from Orenda Books – thanks so much to Karen Sullivan and the author for my lovely prize of THREE of Antti Tuomainen’s books. Book Twitter loves Orenda, and I am delighted to have had the chance to see why. I’m converted to Orenda Books, and to Antti Tuomainen’s writing.
The Man Who Died is a crazily fun book. I loved it – I laughed so much while reading it, which is not what I was expecting from a book told from the perspective of a dying man. The premise is great – Jaakko investigating his own murder before it happens is an immediately gripping prospect, and from the opening pages, I was all in.
This is a hard book to review, because the twists and turns of the plot are what makes it so fun, so I need to be careful not to spoil anything here. My husband did not get such courtesy – I breathlessly recited the whole story to him with rising excitement after each instalment, in a tone of “and then, and then, guess what happens, oooh, you’ll never guess…” – so yeah, I’ve ruined it for him. But for anyone else who is yet to read this fabulous book, I shall keep my lips sealed on plot points. Suffice it to say, a lot happens, and almost all of it is totally unexpected.
Jaakko is a great character to follow as he tries to solve the crime-in-progress. He has a neat line in dry humour, and an acceptance of his increasingly bizarre situation that results in some wonderfully deadpan moments. And there is a quote about a hedgehog that had me snorting with glee. Look out for it.
The present tense narrative is thrilling and immersive, and as far as I can tell, the translation, by David Hackston, does an excellent job of bringing to life Jaakko’s idiosyncratic use of expressions and his joyous talent for understatement. The story is meticulous in the level of detail, and the mystery unravels in a satisfying way (there was one revelation that seemed to come out of nowhere, but it fits with the quirkiness of the plot). I liked the ending very much.
All in all, I had a brilliant time reading this book. For sheer entertainment value, The Man Who Died is right up there. I am really looking forward to reading more of Tuomainen’s work, and to exploring more translated delights from Orenda.