This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
17.10.19 / Crime-Thriller / Orenda Books / Paperback / 200pp / 978-1912374519
Target Audience: For those who like their crime stories with a side of black comedy, philosophical conflict and an even more challenging relationship crisis.
About Little Siberia
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
Little Serbia Review
“‘This… this place is like Siberia. Nothing works the way it’s supposed to. Nothing is certain. This is like… a smaller version of Kamchatka. It’s Little Siberia. That’s what this is.’ I say nothing. On this day of all days I can relate to the man’s sentiments about Hurmevaara.” Little Siberia by Antti Tuomainen
Having read The Man Who Died and Palm Beach, Finland I had a fairly clear notion of what to expect from Antti Tuomainen’s next outing Little Siberia. What I expected was a bold and intriguing crime thriller with plenty of dark humour that would have me as much on edge as it would have me in stitches. It most certainly falls perfectly into both of these categories yet it has even more to deliver. Little Serbia combines an irresistible and tense crime story with a lead character facing both a relationship crisis and a theological and philosophical stalemate. All of which is coated in Antti Tuomainen’s perfectly timed and absolutely hilarious dark humour and a newer more poetic approach to his prose.
AT has always been descriptive and present in his writing but I feel that he took it even further in Little Siberia, making the moments between all the chaos an opportunity for both the pastor and the reader to reflect. Antti Tuomainen has a fascinating perspective on the world, it beliefs and what people are capable of. It is this view that makes even his darkest moments an opportunity for humour and its lightest moments an chance for fear or regret. With a plot that quickly unravels as the tension reaches boiling point, you can’t help but laugh at the circumstances in which pastor Joel Huhta finds himself in.
When a meteorite strikes the small Finnish town of Hurmevaara, it shakes the town out of its stupor. Some see it, for a variety of reasons, as a sign from god or the universe. Some see the meteorite as valuable opportunity to better their own lives. With an estimated value of around a million euros, for a 4 kilogram rock, some are tempted to take it for themselves. The town has the meteorite under lock and key at the museum with a guard at all times. A team of scientists are due to arrive within a few days to take the sample to London. Temptation surrounds the town and there are some who are willing to do anything for the money.
Pastor Joel Huhta is facing an impossible situation. His wife Krista is pregnant with a baby that couldn’t possibly be his. After stepping on a landmine during his time as a military chaplain, Joel was left unable to father a child. Joel loves Krista more than anything, he couldn’t imagine a life without her but he is unable to face the truth. That she has someone else. Without god, who has seemingly abandoned him, to guide Joel through this conflict, the answers are his alone to find. When an opportunity to guard the meteorite overnight presents itself, Joel jumps in the chance to escape his home and give him a chance to figure out what to do.
Not long into his first shift, a failed attempt to obtain the meteorite involving a head injury, snowy car chase and an unfortunate explosion leads Joel to refind his community spirit, invigorate his drive to face those who conspire against him, and the town of Hurmevaara, and face up to what might happen to his life in the immediate future. Little Siberia is anarchic and deadly, yet undeniably funny, exploration into people’s motivations, their truths, their beliefs and how they justify their actions. It is also a cool crime thriller that is enjoyable in one sitting. I realise I sound like a Antti Tuomainen super-fan and I am okay with that. Each of his novels brings unexpected delight in even the bleakest of scenarios and that in itself is worthy of admiration.
I think AT’s approach of pulling the pastor in every direction possible was very well handled and it made me want to find out the result of each threat. Who was behind what and how Joel will deal with each situation as it appears in front of him. From the opening scene of a vodka fuelled high-speed suicide and the resulting cosmic interference to the blood soaked and desperate ending I was hooked. Little Siberia is a moment to moment novel that rolls with the punches whilst opening the reader to reflect on many themes such as infidelity, love, integrity, honesty and willingness to forgive and survive the worst that life, or gangsters and racing drivers, can throw at you.
With a fast paced crime story that has a wise, vulnerable yet determined priest at its centre, there are many aspects that a variety of readers can and will appreciate. I enjoyed the circumstantial humour as well as the philosophical internal debates that stopped Joel in his tracks. Joel is a curious central character and he has a lot to bring to the narrative. A man of god but who has seen godlessness. A pastor who believes but doesn’t doubt those who don’t. Someone who is hopelessly in love and prepared for anything. I easily invested in Joel’s plight and it took me to some crazy and violent places. I highly recommend that everyone gets involved too. And if you do then definitely check out The Man Who Died and Palm Beach, Finland for plenty more excellent reading.
About Antti Tuomainen
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 Heartwas 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 Diedbecame an international bestseller, shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards. Palm Beach Finlandwas an immense success, with Marcel Berlins (The Times) calling Tuomainen ‘the funniest writer in Europe’.
About David Hackston [Translator]
David Hackston is a British translator of Finnish and Swedish literature and drama. He graduated from University College London in 1999 with a degree in Scandinavian Studies and now lives in Helsinki where he works as a freelance translator. Notable publications include The Dedalus Book of Finnish Fantasy, Maria Peura’s coming-of-age novel At the Edge of Light, Johanna Sinisalo’s eco-thriller Birdbrain and two crime novels by Matti Joensuu. David is currently working on a translation of Riku Korhonen’s latest novelSleep Close. His drama translations include three plays by Heini Junkkaala, most recently Play it, Billy! (2012) about the life and times of jazz pianist Billy Tipton. David is also a regular contributor to Books from Finland. In 2007 he was awarded the Finnish State Prize for Translation. David is also a professional countertenor and is currently studying early music and performance practice at Helsinki Metropolia University. He is a founding member of the English Vocal Consort of Helsinki.