Today I am taking a step back to look at one of the earlier titles by Antti Tuomainen, Dark As My Heart. The author’s most recent book have all contained a vein of humour which has amused me no end, so it’s easy to forget that before the laughter, there was a much more serious side to his literary releases. This book definitely fits that bill. Here’s what the book is all about:
About the Book
Aleksi lost his mother on a rainy October day when he was 13 years old. 20 years later, he is certain that he knows who’s responsible. Everything points to millionaire Henrik Saarinen. The police don’t agree. Aleksi has only one option: to get close to Henrik Saarinen and find out the truth about his mother’s fate on his own. But as Aleksi soon discovers, delving into Saarinen and his beautiful daughter’s family secrets is a confusing and dangerous enterprise.
Dark As My Heart tells the story of a mother and son and the search for justice. It’s a story about the cost of obsessions, the price of vengeance and the power of love. Set against a vividly conjured bleak and beautiful Finnish landscape, Dark As My Heart is both a Hitchcockian mystery tale and a modern Greek tragedy.
This is a book which certainly leaves an impression on the reader. With a melancholic tone from the outset there is a dark, brooding quality to the story which completely drew me in and held me captivated right until the final page. The book shows the versatility of the author, the eloquence of his writing, and what a master narrator he really is. For as much as I love Antti Tuomainen’s quirky, occasionally unintentionally slapstick style of humour, I love the journey he takes us on in this book, every bit as devoid of light as the title may suggest.
This is the story of Aleksi, a man whose life was turned upside down when, as a young boy his mother simply disappeared never to be found again. Aleksi makes it his mission to uncover the truth about his mother’s disappearance, a quest which sees him give up everything to take a job in the home of the very person he suspects may be behind it all. His obsession is understandable, his theories seemingly wild and yet completely plausible. And going on that strange journey with Aleksi sees readers taken into a very murky world, with twisted relationships, a myriad of secrets and a varied cast of characters who it is truly hard to feel comfortable around, for the reader much as for Aleksi.
This is a difficult book to settle into, partly due to its constant sense of foreboding and undulating tension, and yet I found it completely compelling. There is something about Aleksi, about the skilful way in which the author has framed his character, the conflict and sadness within him contrasting with that undeniable need for justice and anger that drives him, that drew me into the story. I wanted the answers for him, just as I wanted a resolution to the mystery. As readers we know far more about what the ultimate resolution will be, something that Aleksi knows in his heart, but it is less the what than the who that is the real mystery, one which Antti Tuomainen maintains until the end. Is it as simple as it appears? Maybe, maybe not. That question can only be answered by reading the book.
This really is a beautiful study of the very nature of family, love and obsession. There are so many layers to this story that stripping them back, one by one, makes the truth all the more startling and effective. There is a really raw quality to Aleksi’s emotions which enhances the response to the story, painted as it is in the author’s very impactful style. It is a real contrast to the very calculated behaviour of Saarinen, and his daughter, Amanda, who are masters in manipulation and control, and whose every interaction has purpose. They really are a piece of work, the pair of them, cut from the same cloth and so much alike that they almost repel each other. It is hard to trust anyone in this book, Aleksi included, but it is almost those antagonistic qualities that fascinated me the most.
This is a very dark and twisted tale, one full of surprising revelations used to perfect effect. The language, the tone, creates such vivid imagery that it puts you really in the heart of the story, amplifying its impact tenfold. A story of the unbreakable bond between mother and child, a quest for truth and the very nature of the kind love and obsession which ultimately leads to vengeance. It’s dark and uncompromising and I really kind of loved it.
About the Author
Finnish Antti Tuomainen (b. 1971) 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 is one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula.