Monday 27 November 2023

Ten Years of the Petrona: LITTLE SIBERIA by Antti Tuomainen, translated by David Hackston

The sixth post on the first ten Petrona Award winners, is a new article by friend of the Petrona, Ayo Onatade, on the multi short-listed Antti Tuomainen. Antti won the 2020 Petrona Award for LITTLE SIBERIA, translated by David Hackston, which was published by Orenda Books in 2019.

Ayo writes:

It has been ten years since the Petrona Award was established and during that period we have had so many great books make the longlist, and shortlist for this brilliant award. The winners themselves have all written wonderful books.

Finnish author Antti Tuomainen has always been a great favourite of mine and he, together with his most recent translator David Hackston and his earlier translator Lola Rogers, has been shortlisted for this award four times. In 2016 it was for DARK AS MY HEART a 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. In 2018 it was with THE MAN WHO DIED, a story of a mushroom entrepreneur who finds himself being slowly poisoned and who then sets out to find out who is trying to murder him with dark and hilarious results. In THE MAN WHO DIED readers are seeing that dark, black humour that he is soon to become well-known for. LITTLE SIBERIA was the third book of his that was shortlisted for the award in 2020 which it went on to win. Once again that dark, black but very funny comedic humour comes to the fore in LITTLE SIBERIA which is a tale of a frenziedly silly crime caper not only involving a military chaplain, but also a suicidal rally driver and a very expensive meteorite. His fourth book to be shortlisted for the award was THE RABBIT FACTOR in 2022. THE RABBIT FACTOR is the first in a trilogy to feature insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen who has lost his job, inherited an adventure park from his brother alongside some rather strange employees and distressing financial problems that bring him into the firing line of some very dangerous criminals that want their money back. Into the mix comes Laura (an artist) whom he can't pin his feelings down for on to a spreadsheet.

The other two books in the series are THE MOOSE PARADOX and THE BEAVER THEORY. THE MOOSE PARADOX sees Henri running the adventure park which is now his but having to deal also with other issues such as the park's equipment supplier being taken over by a shady trio who are making some rather strange demands and a man from his past who re-enters Henri's life causing more chaos for him just as he has reached breaking point in his relationship with Laura.

In THE BEAVER THEORY, the third book in the trilogy, we see Henri trying to cope with two different parts of his life. Running an adventure park that is becoming increasingly dangerous alongside what is now his blended home life that includes his partner Laura and her daughter. As one has come to accept things are not running smoothly. There is a competing adventure park who want to expand their operations using any means necessary. The body count has increased in well. The stakes in all of this have never been higher and Henri has to find a way of dealing with this all. 

There is the cutting, dark but brilliant wit that compel his plots along that make you want to continuously turn the pages. You do not expect to laugh out loud when you read something from a Scandi writer. Dour detectives yes, black humour possibly not. But in Antti Tuomainen you have an exception. Think Carl Hiassen in a wintery situation. Warmly funny, rich with quirky characters and absurd situations the Rabbit Factor trilogy will have you realising that you can forget about the clichéd view of Scandi noir because here you not only have an author that has managed to finely balance intrigue and noir but someone that does it with an ironic sense of humour that will leave you wanting more but still also writing a thriller that is exciting as well. 

One hopes that there is much more to come from Antti Tuomainen not solely because of the way in which he manages to enthuse his books with that dark sense of humour but also because he does it without taking away any of the seriousness that one expects when reading about terrible crimes. More please Antti!

Ayo Onatade 

Ayo Onatade is a CWA Red Herring award winning freelance crime fiction critic/commentator, moderator and blogger. She has written articles and given papers on crime fiction. She contributed to British Crime Writing: An Encyclopaedia (2008) and The American Thriller (Critical Insights) (2014) where she wrote the chapter on Legal Thrillers. She currently Chairs the Historical Writers Association Debut Crown, judges the Ngaio Marsh Award and is also an Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Judge. She is a former Chair of the CWA Short Story Dagger. She is an Associate and a Committee Member of the Crime Writers Association of Great Britain (CWA) and also an Advisory Committee Board Member for Capital Crime.

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