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 had never read a book written by a Finnish author, but seeing this unusual, intriguing cover (reminiscent of some medical book) and reading this book's title and blurb, I was immediately intrigued and decided to give it a go.
"How much time do I have?"
Visiting his doctor with what he thought a simple bout of the flu, successful mushroom entrepreneur Jaako Kaunismaa, is horrified to learn that his days are numbered. He's dying. The reason? He had unknowingly been administered poison over a prolonged period of time. Sadly, now it's simply too late to reverse the effect of the poison on his body. All his body organs have been severely damaged and will soon start to shut down. But how did this happen? Who would hate him so much to do such a horrible thing to him? Why?
In spite of the doctor's prognosis, and apart from the occasional unexpected wave of nausea, Jaako feels quite well. But he doesn't want to waste time. He decides to spend the days he's got left to carry out his own investigation and find out who has literally 'murdered' him. Will he have enough time and energy to get to the bottom of this baffling mystery? Will he find out who has been doing or is still doing this to him?
Well, this is a book that immediately draws the reader in from the first chapter. My heart went out to Jaako (before I even had the time to get to know this character) as he got the terrible news - no one wants to be in that awful situation - and like him I wanted to embark on this journey to find the answers to so many questions and above all find out who has done this to him and why. I loved the original concept of someone investigating their own murder... when still alive! With his dark sense of humour and wit, Jaako is a highly realistic, likeable character. I really, really didn't want him to die and found myself reading with a deep sense of helplessness but also a keen determination and hope to get to the bottom of the mystery. Just over thirty with a wife, Jaako is the owner of a thriving business he built from nothing. He has overseas connections to whom he exports the produce and a number of employees working for him. Could this be related to his business? Is this the work of someone jealous of his success? Anyone could be behind this? But who? All of a sudden, if the tiny fact that he's slowly but surely dying weren't enough, a new competitor comes to town determined to snatch the market from Jaako's hands. Seeing that it's too late to save his own life, will Jaako be able to save his business at least? Poor, poor Jaako!
One of the things that makes me think twice before reading translated books is the fear of finding a badly done job. However I was delighted to find that this is not the case with this book. In fact the translator has done a remarkable job in bringing forth the author's voice in a way that we can understand it. Places' names are a bit awkward to spell out but that is of no major bother to me and to be expected in a Nordic novel. The book has quite a different aura and feel to other thrillers set in the UK or the US. We have saunas installed as part of households for example. The plot is not one of the most fast-paced, but is quite intricate with a number of twists and a bunch of suspicious characters to keep the readers on their toes and interested throughout. There are also a number of funny, but at the same time shocking episodes and a couple of bizarre incidents I wasn't expecting. This book makes for a very entertaining read and I have no qualms about recommending it. Great read!
With thanks to Orenda Books and the lovely Anne Cater for an ARC of this book and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.
About the Author
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.