THE MINE by Antti Tuomainen
I recently read THE MINE by Antti Tuomainen, my first-ever Finnish crime novel! I thoroughly enjoyed this immersive and atmospheric read, and was thrilled to have the chance to ask a few questions of its author. This post is a two-for-one deal: read on for my thoughts on this immersive crime novel, and then learn more about the book from its author!
MINI-REVIEW: THE MINE BY ANTTI TUOMAINEN
THE MINE is an immersive, atmospheric thriller that blends the best of corporate intrigue with an insightful, sensitive character study.
THE MINE follows Janne, an investigative journalist on the trail of an environmental disaster in the making. Janne has received a tip that a mining company in a small, northern town in Finland is using illegal mining practices which are threatening the area's environment. Janne begins to investigate the shady business, but soon realizes he's bitten off more than he can chew when executives in the company begin dying in a series of mysterious accidents... In an interwoven storyline, troubled memories from Janne's youth begin resurfacing, and he comes face to face with parts of his past he believed long left behind.
I went into this read expecting a story of corporate cover-ups; what I got was so much more meaningful. Yes, this is a story about greed and corruption, but at its heart, it's a story of choices and their fallout. What I loved most about this story—beyond its vivid landscapes, beautiful language, and page-turning plot—was its big heart. Following Janne's character development is truly the most compelling part of this novel. Watching him uncover secrets from his own past, and watching him grapple with lessons he must learn with his own family, make this a heartfelt and emotional read. This is a redemptive and surprisingly optimistic story—a breath of fresh air, and a crime novel guaranteed to tug at your heart.
Photo credit: Toni Härkönen
AUTHOR INTERVIEW: ANTTI TUOMAINEN
Crime by the Book: What drew you to the subject matter of environmental crises and corporate cover-ups explored in THE MINE?
Antti Tuomainen: Short answer: real events and genuine astonishment. A bit longer one: we had a sort of a mining boom in Finland a few years ago when a huge nickel mine in Northern Finland was opened. It was (and continues to be) an utter disaster from the beginning. And when it was revealed how the business got its start, how it involved politicians and business people in a highly questionable manner and how phenomenally big was (and continues to be) the tax-payers' bill I just felt I had to ask a few questions.
CBTB: What kind of research went into writing THE MINE? I'm particularly interested in how you learned about the environmental threats posed by mining - are these issues that you had previously been interested in, or did you begin to learn about them while writing this book? I'm curious because your book shows quite detailed knowledge of this subject, which I found fascinating!
AT: I did a lot of research. And the more I read the more I had to wonder. (Actually, I still do.) It was an area I had no previous knowledge of. Luckily, we had a few very good Finnish journalists working on this continuously developing story so I had a lot of material in real time. Also, I did plenty of googling, starting from the basics of mining.
CBTB: To the best of my knowledge, in your story, the town in which the mine itself is located is fictional. Is this correct? If so, did you base this town on a general region of Finland, or was it modeled after a specific town?
AT: The mine in the novel was indeed modeled after a very real and very catastrophic actual mine. But the town in the novel is a mix of a few small towns and some personal memories. At the same time, I would say that the town's location is exactly factual. If that makes sense.
CBTB: I love how many layers the plot of THE MINE has. Readers explore not only the environmental crisis and Janne's investigation of it, but we also are presented with portraits of individuals in crisis, from broken families to those struggling with all-consuming jobs. How do you keep all these plot threads straight while writing?
AT: First of all: I find the crime story a perfect vehicle or a framework to tell the kind of dramatic stories I want to tell. I'm primarily interested in the human condition. We’re all so wonderfully flawed and so imperfectly perfect. We can be good and we can be so bad. I’m interested in the way we act in time of crisis, in desperate situations, how we respond in different situations. So every novel begins with characters and their dilemmas, challenges, problems. THE MINE, to me, is actually a family story, father and son story, and the rest (the mine, journalism, being a hitman) is a way to bring these people together in the most dramatic way possible. And that is how I find the story and how I keep everything straight, so to speak: with strongly motivated characters who want something at all times, and who are, in the best case, a bit obsessed.
CBTB: One of my favorite aspects of your writing is how you tie Janne's anxieties and fears into the weather - as he grows worried, the weather also will be stormy or dark. It seems to me that your writing must be inspired by the climate of your home - is this true?
AT: We have four seasons here and they are indeed very distinct. The difference between winter and summer is drastic. I realize now that THE MINE takes place in the deepest winter and my next novel in the UK (out in 2017) takes place during the hottest days of July. And yes, there is a difference in the tone.
CBTB: Prior to working as a fiction author, you have also worked in journalism and media. Should readers draw parallels between your career experiences and Janne's job as a journalist? Were pieces of Janne's job inspired by your own career?
AT: Some, of course. But I was fortunate to (mainly) work for a magazine that valued its writers. So I was never put on a story like "Learn to twerk!" as Janne is. But it's all around us.
CBTB: For English readers who are interested in reading more Finnish crime fiction, are there any other authors you would be able to recommend?
AT: I would recommend Finnish literature altogether. For example, Aki Ollikainen's White Hunger is simply excellent.
A big thank-you to Antti for answering my questions, and to Karen of Orenda Books for providing a review copy of THE MINE, and for facilitating this Q&A! I'm so appreciative.
For more information on Antti's books, check out his website here.