Source: Review Copy
Publication : 17 October 2019 from Orenda Books
Fargo meets Nietzsche in this atmospheric, darkly funny thriller by the critically acclaimed author of The Man Who Died and Palm Beach Finland. A huge Finnish bestseller, Little Siberia topped both literary and crime charts in 2018, and has gone on to sell rights in 24 countries.
A man with dark thoughts on his mind is racing along the remote snowy roads of Hurmevaara in Finland, when there is flash in the sky and something crashes into the car. That something turns about to be a highly valuable meteorite. With euro signs lighting up the eyes of the locals, the unexpected treasure is temporarily placed in a neighbourhood museum, under the watchful eye of a priest named Joel.
But Joel has a lot more on his mind than simply protecting the riches that have apparently rained down from heaven. His wife has just revealed that she is pregnant. Unfortunately, Joel has strong reason to think the baby isn’t his.
As Joel tries to fend off repeated and bungled attempts to steal the meteorite, he must also come to terms with his own situation, and discover who the father of the baby really is.
I adored Little Siberia and you can read my review here. So I am delighted to bring you an extract from this fabulous novel which I recommend highly. It is a brilliantly funny, darkly comic, philosophical and ultimately tender book about faith, belief and what’s truly important. I loved it. This is Tuomainen at his best.
So, without further ado, here’s a short extract to whet your appetite:
It’s come to this.
People often use this phrase, though I assume most are either joking or say it in situations in which things could still go in a variety of directions. I only know one direction I want to take. It’s the direction that’s been given me.
It’s another few hours until daybreak. I give the police a statement, tell them what happened at the museum, show them the broken window, the smashed display cabinets. The police pass the case on almost immediately, handing it over to the local army brigade in Kainuu. The missing hand grenade is a matter for the army, the police officer explains, especially since it wasn’t supposed to contain live ammunition. I look up at the officer and think how reality seems to escape our assumptions with increasing regularity, but I don’t say it out loud. I call the cleaner, who is doing the night shift at the paper factory. She promises to come and clean up when she’s finished work in three hours.
After this I call Turunmaa, tell him the news and ask him who can come and replace the window. Turunmaa says he knows a guy who fixes windows at a decent price and promises to call him. Then I get to the main reason I called. I tell him I’ll gladly take on all the remaining night shifts at the museum. He doesn’t make a fuss about it; it’s fine by him, they can all get on with other things and Himanka can carry on sleeping in his own bed.
After I hang up, another police officer reminds me that there was a break-in at the museum three or four years ago. Back then thieves took a map allegedly showing war-time attack strategies, and there was some minimal vandalism to the toilet facilities. From his tone of voice it’s clear he doesn’t consider either break-in the most exciting case of his career.
Nobody says anything about the meteorite.
And relatively quickly I’m alone again, waiting until the morning staff arrive.
By now a reddish glow taints the eastern horizon. The winter sun is low in the sky, its beams making bright slashes through a frozen world. I know perfectly well that the thieves were after the meteorite. Nobody breaks in to a museum in order to steal a thousand euros of loot when they could have a million. Something must have gone wrong. The grenade was about the same size and weight as the meteorite. Maybe the thieves were in a hurry, or they mistook the grenade for the meteorite for some other reason. It was dark in the room – I’d turned off all the lights at the timer switch. Maybe the person who smashed the display cabinet was different from the one who struck me with the torch. I don’t know.
But what I do know is that one of the robbers is still out there. Somewhere. The meteorite will be here for another four days.
Nobody is going to take it on my watch.
They can try, I think to myself.
But you have to draw a line in the sand.
And that line runs right here, right through me.
Krista is asleep. I take some ibuprofen to soothe my headache then have a hot shower. But the chill isn’t just on my skin; it’s somewhere deeper, complete with the usual faint tremors. They seem to come from deep inside me, from the places where the muscles are attached to the bones, and almost flinch away from one another. I’ll freely admit that I don’t see the meteorite as simply a meteorite. The stupid, inanimate rock could be worth many millions of euros, but that doesn’t interest me. It’s the integrity of that rock that interests me. And it’s an integrity upon which I can have a real effect.
I look at Krista’s bottles of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel. Jealousy whispers to me about when and why they have been used.
I feel as if it’s inside me – like five litres of rancid, lumpy milk that I can’t seem to vomit up from my stomach.
Water drums against my head and neck. For a moment I close my eyes, then open them again. The reddened water swirls round my feet and disappears down the drain. The burglars were prepared to use violence. And they did.
I won’t be turning the other cheek.
And that’s the main reason why I didn’t tell the police about the cottage, the explosion or the missing accomplice. In the course of the last twenty-four hours I’ve already taken a battering without being able to respond. That’s what Krista’s news felt like. I’m not planning on waiting for more people to walk all over me. I plan to find and, if necessary, stop the burglar myself. Either when I’m on guard duty or not. It might not be the right thing to do, but it’s got to be done. Besides, if years of theology studies have taught me anything, it’s that the quest for perfection is futile; perfection simply doesn’t exist. Someone else can try to find it, but not me.
I brush my teeth. I’m out of my mind. I understand why. Hard times lie ahead.
Finnish Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. 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. Two years later, in 2013, the Finnish press crowned Tuomainen the ‘King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen was one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his poignant, dark and hilarious The Man Who Died (2017) became an international bestseller, shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards. Palm Beach Finland (2018) was an immense success, with The Times calling Tuomainen ‘the funniest writer in Europe’.