The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen

From the blurb: “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…”

I was in a real funk when it came to reading at the start of this year. Where previously I’d tear through books in giddy delight, I was struggling to make any headway with anything I picked up. I speak in past tense for on my bookshelf, top of my ‘to read’ pile, lay a book that reignited that spark and one that had me glued from the out and kept me hooked until the last moment: The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen.

Tuomainen has rapidly become a favourite of mine. When I ran a list of my fifty favourite reads back at the tail end of 2018 his The Man Who Died – a ridiculously funny and compelling story of a poisoned mushroom farmer (yes, you read that correctly) – made the cut a little over a year after being published. If I ran that list again it would probably still there though it would have strong competition from every book he’s published since each of which have been brilliantly crafted and sit in a genre almost of their own.

His latest – a novel about a man who defines calculated, clinical pragmatism finding himself in a situation for which he could never have been prepared and thrown gloriously funny curveball after curveball – is another essential read from the Finnish master storyteller. Practically dripping in delicious dark humour and genuine laugh out loud moments of comic absurdity, The Rabbit Factor is a bloody brilliant novel from Antti Tuomainen that again proves just how ridiculously talented an author he is.

Reading an Antti Tuomainen novel is a genuine pleasure chiefly because you can feel that he had such a good time writing it too. Not only is there a fantastic skill here – he’s created an original story, peopled it with characters that leave you wanting more of (the staff of YouMeFun need their own novel) and thrown in plenty of plot twists – but the overriding sense is that this is the work of a writer in his element and creating both story and prose with joy. It makes for a glorious read.

From heavy hitting gangsters (and the hilarious ends they meet) to frued, complex financial schemes to keep the his business afloat, the pressing demands of en eccentric workforce, the attentions of the police, plans to get aforementioned gangsters off his back and even a genuinely touching romance, there’s a lot going on in The Rabbit Factor – especially for a lead character who doesn’t ‘do’ the unexpected – yet the story cracks along at a terrific pace to the point that it’s a wonder that Tuomainen manages to wrap it all up so perfectly in just 280 or so pages.

There’s not a dull moment here and a whole lot to love. Another cracking novel from Antti Tuomainen, The Rabbit Factor comes highly recommended and I can’t wait for more.

My thanks (and apologies for taking my time in getting round to this one) to Karen at Orenda Books for my advanced copy.

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