Source: Review copy
Publication: e-book 1st October; Hardback 28 October 2021 from Orenda Books
My thanks to Orenda Books for an advance copy for review
Just one spreadsheet away from chaos…
What makes life perfect? Insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen knows the answer because he calculates everything down to the very last decimal.
And then, for the first time, Henri is faced with the incalculable. After suddenly losing his job, Henri inherits an adventure park from his brother – its peculiar employees and troubling financial problems included. The worst of the financial issues appear to originate from big loans taken from criminal quarters … and some dangerous men are very keen to get their money back.
But what Henri really can’t compute is love. In the adventure park, Henri crosses paths with Laura, an artist with a chequered past, and a joie de vivre and erratic lifestyle that bewilders him. As the criminals go to extreme lengths to collect their debts and as Henri’s relationship with Laura deepens, he finds himself faced with situations and emotions that simply cannot be pinned down on his spreadsheets…
Warmly funny, rich with quirky characters and absurd situations, The Rabbit Factor is a triumph of a dark thriller, its tension matched only by its ability to make us rejoice in the beauty and random nature of life.
First the good news – this is no 1 in a three part series. Hurrah! From the beginning I took Henri Kosinken into my heart. He is a man who likes order in a chaotic world. One who knows his place and can calculate risk to the nth degree, he is perfectly suited to his job as an insurance mathematician. Or he was….because office life is changing. No longer predicated on one’s ability to do a good job, today’s office managers are full of the mantras of attitude, team players and touchy, feely, emotional belonging, needing their teams to feel part of a greater whole, in touch with their inner emotions and more open to belonging to the company.
This is not Henri. He just wants to add figures and calculate equations like a good insurance actuary should. He doesn’t want to play team bonding games or discuss the latest language appropriate developments in company psychology. He has all he needs and his need for companionship is provided by his cat, Schopenhauer.
So when his brother Juhani dies and he inherits his adventure park, Henri decides he will honour his brother’s final request and run the adventure park. After all, how hard can it be?
Of course nothing is simple and it doesn’t take long for Henri, after going through the books, to realise that both he and the park are in deep trouble.
Reader, this book is a joy. It is a book that deals with crimes, for sure, but it is also a book about love and hope. Henri and the assorted motley crew of people who run the adventure park are a weird and wonderful crew from the would-be General manager, the fixer Kristian, to the constantly absent box office employee Venla and Minttu K, the marketing manager who can’t understand why Henri does not want to shout about her new ideas for making the adventure park a going concern.
Then there’s the Adventure Park Manager, Laura Helanto, who keeps the park ticking over and who is also a painter of murals. Her art brings colour into Henri’s life and she manages to touch his heart in a way that nothing ever has before. For Henri, everything is a revelation. Hitherto his only concern was ensuring that the numbers made sense and that logical, meticulous calculation activity that he undertook every day was all he had to worry about. Now he has to learn how to deal with people and that’s a whole new learning curve. He also has to work out how to handle the snooping policeman Osmala, who has a habit of turning up just when he is least wanted.
It is Henri’s blossoming and the way he handles the many and various challenges he meets that adds light touch humour to this delightful book. Tuomainen writes with a quick, dry wit and it’s impossible to read this and not laugh as Henri weaves his way through the minefield of people management and having to working with the mob. All of this is so beautifully and deftly handled by Tuomainen that you don’t have to suspend disbelief because this world is all too real. He captures the quirks and foibles of human nature perfectly and uses these to craft a novel that is perfect in its dark humour and which offers such joy.
The Rabbit Factor sets the commonplace alongside mayhem and madness leading to some crazy capers, but underlying these is a real darkness. Our mobster may be a baker with a love for giant cinnamon buns, but this does not stop him from being the leader of a gang well up for the torture and murder of those who would defy him.
Written in the present tense, The Rabbit Factor brings an immediacy to Henri’s problems. As Henri constantly calculates the risk factors, he finds that when it comes to Laura, nothing really makes sense any more, at least nothing that can be explained by columns of figures or Excel spreadsheets.
Verdict: This book is a complete joy to read. I shed a little tear of joy when it ended. Only a little one though, because – hurrah- this is book one in a trilogy! I can’t wait for more Henri Kosinken. The delightful Antti Tuomainen’s quirky, dry and understated humour is both visual and also has that delicate and warm comedic touch that sets you off in an almost seemingly unintentional way. That’s such a clever writing technique. Special mention here to David Hackston who so perfectly captures Antti’s voice that you never, even for a moment, think that these are not his direct words. Perfect reading for these turbulent times.
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 was one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his poignant, dark and hilarious The Man Who Died 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’, and Little Siberia (2019) was shortlisted for the Capital Crime/Amazon Publishing Readers Awards, the Last Laugh Award and the CWA International Dagger, and won the Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel. The Rabbit Factor is the first book in Antti’s first-ever series.