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 have been dying to read The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen ever since I heard him talk about it and read an excerpt (in both Finnish and English) at Newcastle Noir earlier this year. I was really intrigued by the concept, a 37-year-old man, Jaako Kaunismaa discovers he is dying and he has been poisoned by an unidentifiable source over an extended period of time. He doesn’t know who is the culprit or why but he does know that his time is running out. Throw in a marriage on the skids, a challenge to his thriving mushroom exporting business and some unsavoury characters and Jaako isn’t having the best of times.
The Man Who Died is an unusual book, it is a thriller – somebody has murdered Jaako after all, but it is laced with black humour. I’ve never read a book quite like this, one moment the protagonist is being followed by a man wielding a samurai sword, the next he is discussing his marital woes with a three times divorced George Clooney lookalike who is offering him foolproof marriage advice (lower your standards). Despite the book being about a pretty dark subject it didn’t feel heavy at all, it is a witty and creative novel with some wonderful philosophical moments.
Jaako is a brilliant protagonist – when faced with imminent death which could be, “days; weeks at most away” he doesn’t turn into a jabbering wreck, he sets about investigating his murder, creating a list of things to do which is headed with ‘Commence Murder Investigation’. His very successful business is also facing threat from a rival which has set up next door headed up by three local thugs who are not to be crossed. Despite the fact he is dying he tackles them head on leading to danger, car chases and dark, dark humour. Tuomainen’s Jaako is a wonderful, witty and dry man, who is not only facing death but the horror of a middle-aged spread and is hugely insecure about it;
“I instinctively pull my stomach in and puff out my chest, but straight away it makes me feel ridiculous. Here I am, a dying man, standing in the middle of the garden, and still I’m trying to make an impression on the opposite sex”
Wonderfully philosophical in places, Jaako considers his death and contemplates his place on earth and the people in his life. The relationship with his wife and employees all come under scrutiny and this is when we discover the real Jaako. He is forced to analyse those closest to him to see the real person beneath and in turn he is forced to examine himself. I really enjoyed those moments of introspection which were emotional without being mawkish. I also loved that we learned about the people in his life via his internal monologue. Some of the interactions with his wife in particular are brilliant and tension filled when she is saying one thing but her body language is saying something else.
This books isn’t a thriller in the traditional sense, yes there are moments of suspense and tension but it is much more an exploration of life and its meaning. Some of the most beautiful moments come at the simplest time, Jaako eating an ice cream and appreciating the flavours, the hotel receptionist struggling with a printer – all reminders of the small things that make up life. Yes he is dying and his marriage and business are under threat but it is a lovely sunny day in Finland and a morning swim is a joy to appreciate.
I really liked this book, I liked that it wasn’t traditional, I liked the dark, dry humour and I especially liked Jaako, a protagonist with a difference and with a huge heart.
About The Author
Finnish 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 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. The Mine, published in 2016, was an international bestseller. All of his books have been optioned for TV/film. With his piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen is one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and The Man Who Died sees him at his literary best.
I am thrilled to be one of today’s stops for the Blog Tour for The Man Who Died today, many thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books and Anne Cater for a copy of the book in return for an honest review. You can find both Antti Tuomainen and Orenda Books on Twitter at @antti_tuomainen and @OrendaBooks respectively. The Man Who Died is out now and can be bought here.
Make sure you check out the other stops on the tour, details are beneath!