THE MAN WHO DIED by Antti Tuomainen
Orenda; 10/10/17 (UK) & 5/1/18 (US)
CBTB Rating: 4.5/5
The Verdict: Quirky crime fiction + dark humor
I’m delighted to be on the blog tour today for the newest book from the King of Helsinki Noir, Antti Tuomainen! Tuomainen’s newest, THE MAN WHO DIED, is engaging and immersive; readers looking for a new crime read with a dash of dark humor and plenty of personality will find their perfect match in this Finnish crime novel. I’m not usually a reader who looks for humor in their crime fiction, but Tuomainen’s smart and poignant story delivered the perfect blend of thrills, investigation, character development, and comedy to keep me engaged from the first page to the last. THE MAN WHO DIED is yet another example of publisher Orenda Books’ sharp eye for unique, original crime fiction; it’s smart, sensitive, and engaging, and guaranteed to be unlike anything else in your crime fiction library.
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.
As an avid reader of Nordic Noir, I generally feel well-prepared when it comes to starting a new Scandinavian crime read - I typically know what to expect, and what I’ll enjoy, when I dive into a new Nordic crime novel. Every so often, I’m completely surprised by what I uncover in between that new book’s pages - and THE MAN WHO DIED by Antti Tuomainen is a prime example of a book that completely surprised me. THE MAN WHO DIED is a superb example of just how fluid and elastic the crime genre in general - and Nordic Noir in particular - can be. Yes, this book is distinctly tied to its Scandinavian roots, both in its setting and in its mood; however, this book also draws on dark comedy to create a genuinely unique and compelling story. Combine these qualities with an urgent investigation into main character Jaakko’s poisoning, and THE MAN WHO DIED will feel simultaneously familiar and wonderfully inventive to crime fiction readers. Tuomainen’s creativity shines in this compelling and poignant story.
While THE MAN WHO DIED certainly relies on elements of dark humor, what I actually loved most about this story is its unexpected tenderness and poignancy. Readers are drawn along on the often hilarious misadventures of Jaakko as he pursues the truth about his impending death - but along that journey, readers also see the raw emotions of a man who is coming to terms with his mortality. A significant part of Jaakko’s journey is pure comedy; he encounters competitors in the mushroom industry who are determined to kill him with giant swords (seriously!), and finds himself in a number of misadventures involving burying bodies, losing his clothes, and a whole lot more. But if you look beyond these absurd and genuinely comedic moments, readers will find a sensitive side to this darkly humorous story.
Jaakko’s personal investigation delivers moments of raw emotion that genuinely affected me. As Jaakko looks forward at his new (and much shorter) future, he must come to terms with the choices he has made and the way he has lived his life. The realizations and truths that come to light during this process make for a poignant and sometimes heartbreaking reading experience, as the reader witnesses Jaakko finally taking agency over his life just as his life comes to a close. I wasn’t expecting to be as moved by this book as I was, and I loved the story of self-discovery that Tuomainen has woven into this otherwise quirky and funny crime novel. There is so much more to THE MAN WHO DIED than simply a story of a man investigating the source of the poison that is killing him, and I was thoroughly impressed with the depth and range of experiences explored in this book.
Tuomainen’s writing is effortless, and translator David Hackston does a superb job bringing the subtleties of Tuomainen’s storytelling through to English-speaking readers. THE MAN WHO DIED is charming in its absurdities and poignant in its honesty about one man’s emotions and realizations at the end of his life. Top it all off with an investigation of the utmost urgency (a man finding out who has poisoned him before he dies), and this book makes for a wholly original and memorable reading experience. Heartbreaking, darkly funny, and wholly engaging, THE MAN WHO DIED will be a welcome and unique addition to any crime fiction reader’s collection.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. All opinions my own.
Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: Orenda Books (May 1, 2018)
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