I am absolutely delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Little Siberia by Antti Tuomainen. He has written some of my favourite books of the past few years and I have been looking forward to reading this book since it was first mentioned by publisher, Orenda Books, late last year. Before we take a look at what I thought, here’s what it’s all about:
About The Book
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.Available From: Amazon | Waterstones | Kobo | Googleplay | Apple Books
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.
Transporting the reader to the culture, landscape and mores of northern Finland Little Siberia is both a crime novel and a hilarious, blacker-than-black comedy about faith and disbelief, love and death, and what to do when bolts from the blue – both literal and figurative – turn your life upside down.
I loved Antti Tuomainen’s last two books, The Man Who Died, and Palm Beach Finland. There was just something about the wonderful blend of the mystery and the humour, a kind of dark Fargo-esque caper full of extraordinary characters getting into incredible situations, just based in Finland and not Minnesota … So when I heard about Little Siberia I couldn’t wait to tuck in and see if the author had managed to capture that same comical magic yet again.
The simple answer – yes. The more complicated one is that Antti Tuomainen has absolutely managed to find that special understated humour, but this time wrapped it up in a novel which seems to have a much more serious core, one that examines the nature of faith, family, trust and forgiveness through the eyes of a weary Pastor and under the spell of a falling meteorite.
The novel opens in a thrilling and spectacular way. A high speed car ride alongside a former racing driver, the the author managing to capture perfectly the thrill of the rising speed, the ache in the drivers heart for what he loves and is missing, and the sense of peril for the circumstances of the drive … right up to the point that everything changes and the real story begins.
For this isn’t a story about racing drivers – well not exactly, although Finland is well known for the high pedigree of their petrol heads. This is the story of how one small twist of fate brings change to a whole town. Hurmevaara isn’t exactly a party town. Actually, it is a town that gives you the isolated, snowbound Fargo vibes once again, but in a very different way. It is not peppered with unconventional or comedic characters, in fact they seem mostly rational compared to those we met in previous books. But even the rational can have their head turned by the thought of money, and when a meteor falls into their lap – almost literally in one case – they think less of the rarity and scientific implications of the town’s new found fame, more of its value on the open market.
More than that though, this is a story of the human condition. It is told primarily through the eyes of the Parish Pastor, Joel Huhta. He is a man with a lot on his mind, the least of which is either his parishioners or the security of a lump of rock. And yet that very lump of rock gives him a much needed sense of purpose and a distraction from all that is going wrong in his life. I really liked Joel and the way the author had portrayed him. He is at a crossroads, questioning his faith and his marriage, and why he still carries on with the small town that has offered him little and yet looks set to cost him everything. There is something about him that draws you in as a reader, and I wanted to see him succeed, finding myself more than happy to go on this slightly madcap journey with him.
Despite the sleepy setting, and the fact that they are by and large a slave to the elements, there is still a good amount of action in this novel. It is not a fast paced read, although I did find myself turning through the pages at quite some speed, but it is strangely compelling. There are moments of great jeopardy for Joel, segments of a chase that echo the opening chapter, where the contrast between the pace of life in the town and the action on the page is quite stark. There are also a lot of moments of introspection, where we are privy to as much emotion and inner conflict as we are physical altercation. And there are so many characters to be suspicious of, for so many different reasons, it is hard to know who, beyond Joel, to trust.
So while this did feel like a very different read to the past two novels, I still absolutely loved it. It was a brilliant blend of dark and rich humour, mystery and thrill, all cloaked in a winter chill that was described so clearly, felt so real, I was close to turning my own heating on while reading, even in the height of summer. Brilliant stuff.
About the Author
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’.
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