“This isn’t the Koskenkorva. This is fate.” Book Review: Little Siberia by Antti Tuomainen

From the PR: “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.

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.”

Antti Tuomainen is rapidly becoming one of my favourite writers. 2017’s The Man Who Died sits in my list of 50 Great Reads for a reason, Palm Beach, Finland was one of 2018’s finest – absurd, hilarious and thoroughly compelling – and now here I am finally getting round to reviewing last years’ Little Siberia and, let me tell you, it’s fucking brilliant too.

Packed with dark humour that is often uproariously funny, like a Nordic Noir directed by the Coen Brothers, like Fargo after a few shots of Finish vodka, Little Siberia is a delicious read that should sit well toward the top of the Best of 2019 lists – it does on mine.

Tuomainen has a real skill for creating worlds stuffed with fascinating and addictive characters and Little Siberia’s Hurmevaara abounds with just a population  – throw a museum piece around and you’re bound to hit at least two characters that deserve a book each.

The scene in which Joel pursues the would-be meteorite thieves though the snow to their hideout had me weeping with laughter at the delicious comic absurdity of it, not to mention rally driving with a dead body…. Wickedly funny, dripping with dark humour and hugely addictive, Little Siberia cracks along at a staggering pace from one scene to another before reaching its brilliant conclusion and manages to throw plenty of curve balls into the plot to keep you sufficiently hooked as well as laughing throughout.

Easily one of 2019’s best books, Little Siberia is highly recommended. Given that I’m a little late in reviewing this I really hope there’s another slice of gold from Antti Tuomainen arriving in 2020 too.

Blog Tour: The Exiled by Kati Hiekkapelto

Is there a Finish expression for busman’s holiday?

From the PR:
“Murder. Corruption. Dark secrets. A titanic wave of refugees. Can Anna solve a terrifying case that’s become personal?  
Anna Fekete returns to the Balkan village of her birth for a relaxing summer holiday. But when her purse is stolen and the thief is found dead on the banks of the river, Anna is pulled into a murder case. Her investigation leads straight to her own family, to closely guarded secrets concealing a horrendous travesty of justice that threatens them all. As layer after layer of corruption, deceit and guilt are revealed, Anna is caught up in the refugee crisis spreading like wildfire across Europe. How long will it take before everything explodes?”

41mxo4kt01l-_sx322_bo1204203200_I really need to get my hands on a copy of The Hummingbird, the first installment in Kati Hiekkapelto’s Anna Fekete series. Last year the second book The Defencless was one of my best reads of 2015  and, having just finished The Exiled it’s safe to say this is fast becomming one of my favourite series and Anna Fekete makes for a compelling lead character.

A fish out of water in Finland, Anna finds herself just as out of place back in her ‘home’ country – she’s lived abroad for so long now that the mannerisms, and even the language, are alien to her and Kati Hiekkapelto perfectly captures that strange sense of disconnect felt by those returning home from a different culture – specifically a ‘western’ one – and the seeming frustration at the change in how even the most straight-forward of things function differntly. It’s not obvious to all who haven’t witnessed or experienced it but there is a real change in the pace of life and priorities compared to more latin countries and it’s clear the author has done more than her homework here.

Kati does a wonderful job of evoking Serbia – the people, the mannerisms, the climate, the pastimes, even the social necessities and the odd (to Western eyes) importance placed on just those, along with Anna’s confused emotions on returning to her homeland – even if what she finds isn’t always to her liking there are certain sensations and memories that cannot be tainted and here come across beautifully. Ms Hiekkapelto’s skill, though, is in combining these rich evokations with a gripping and superbly paced plot. It’s one thing to paint a picture so vivid as to have the ready longing for another glass of homemade plum brandy, it’s another to write a genuinely engaging and taut mystery but it’s an art to get the two to work together seamlessly. That’s an art where Kati Hiekkapelto is most definitely skilled.

As much as I enjoy tearing though a fast-paced thriller, I love a good slow-burner and The Exiled more than delights; the writing is calm and effective – it draws you in with deceptive ease until you’re fully immersed in both place and plot with a great level of detail and characters and as determined to get to the bottom of the mystery as Anna Fekete herself.

One of the elements I enjoyed most about The Defenceless was Kati Hiekkapelto’s handling of important social themes and the same is true with The Exiled. Never more timely, the handling of the dehumanisation of refugees – even the nastily subtle manner in which the media decides they’re ‘immigrants’ rather than people fleeing absolutle terror – plays a central role in this novel; a pertinent message for our times as the Right seems to barrel it’s way through truth and humanity.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Exiled and can’t recommend it enough. Thanks again to Karen at Orenda for my copy and do check out the other stops on the blogtour: