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 must confess that my heart does skip a little beat and dances around in my chest every time I settle down to read and review a book by the always excellent Antti Tuomainen. With every book we enter a world where the small, some would say humdrum existence of ordinary people, is suddenly enveloped in drama and absurdity, that shifts their world view, and thanks to the compassion of Tuomainen’s writing, ours too…
Henri Koskinen is one such individual, whose positively benign existence is shaken to its core following his being fired as an actuary, having had particular problems with the open office culture, moronic ‘inspirational’ business speak and having to interact with people- a skill that charmingly eludes Henri,
” I don’t need to know how other people are doing, I don’t want to know what they’re thinking, what they’ve done or how they experience things. I don’t what to know what they are planning, their hopes and their aspirations. So I don’t ask.”
Thrust into the strange world of running an adventure park- not an amusement park- an adventure park, with the sudden death of his brother, the previous owner, Henri’s life spirals into a confusing one, finding himself responsible for a whole team of idiosyncratic workers, and avoiding losing vital body parts as his brother’s criminal debtors start to encircle him like sharks. What Tuomainen achieves so brilliantly, not only in this book but throughout his writing, is the empowerment of the underdog, who we see grow in stature and ingenuity as circumstances rail against them and take on a darker edge. Such is the progression of Henri’s character, starting out as a man who defines every action according to the laws of mathematics and probability, but who gradually begins to appreciate other aspects of life outside of his cerebral world view through his interaction with others, and his desire to thwart the bad guys and make a modicum of success out of his new, admittedly unwanted, business path.
It would be impossible to contemplate a review of this book, without mentioning the sheer joy of the humour that Tuomainen has made a mainstay of his books to date, and with David Hackston’s assured transcription absolutely nothing is lost in translation. There is a precise control to how Tuomainen combines humour in the narrative, with the balance between the dark, the absurd and the slightly slapstick, sitting perfectly within the framework of the plot, and causing unexpected moments of sheer hilarious delight. Not for nothing does this book feature a giant rabbit on the cover, that proves instrumental in Henri’s growing stature as the adventure park avenger. This beautifully wrought use of humour extends to the characterisation too with the employees of the adventure park all displaying quirky, darn strange or conversely frighteningly ordinary character traits. I particularly loved one depiction of Henri’s character, tentatively navigating his growing attraction to the artistic Laura, an employee at the adventure park, despite being like a deer caught in headlights at the very notion of love and relationships despite bravely asking Laura out,
“without carrying out a single calculation or the most rudimentary probability assessment in advance”
– that’s romance right there Henri-style. However, ruled as he usually is by the laws and capabilities of mathematics, and having to plan a first date at a restaurant his penchant for probability assessments kicks in again,
“Given the average rating review, the distance from our respective bus stops, the prevailing weather, the day of the week, the time of year, your predilection for spicy food, and the fact that the point of a date is to try and make an impression on the other person, this seemed like the optimal choice.”
It’s this framing of Henri’s character throughout the book that so adds to the enjoyment, and as his day to day life becomes increasingly more embroiled with a bunch of criminals who begin to threaten life and limb this book really starts to accentuate the theme of the little ordinary guy taking on the world and redefining his previous limitations. It has a warm, life affirming feel to it but wonderfully fractured in places with moments of extreme peril and physical danger along the way. The Rabbit Factor is a delight from start to finish, and will entertain and delight you all too I’m sure.
Finnish Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author in 2013, the Finnish press crowned Tuomainen the ‘King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was 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 Died became an international bestseller, shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards. Palm Beach Finland was an immense success, with Marcel Berlins (The Times) calling Tuomainen ‘the funniest writer in Europe’. Little Siberia (2020), was shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger, the Amazon Publishing/Capital Crime Awards and the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award, and won the Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year. The Rabbit Factor (2021), the first book in Antti’s first ever series,is in production by Amazon Studios with Steve Carell starring.The Moose Paradox, book two in the series is out in 2022.
David Hackston is a British Translator of Finnish and Swedish literature and drama. 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, two crime novels by Matti Joensuu and Kati Hiekkapelto’s Anna Fekete series (which currently includes The Hummingbird, The Defenceless and The Exiled, all published by Orenda Books). He also translates Antti Tuomainen’s stories. In 2007 he was awarded the Finnish State Prize for Translation. David is also a professional countertenor and a founding member of the English Vocal Consort of Helsinki. Follow David on Twitter @Countertenorist
(With thanks to Orenda Books for the ARC)
Missed a post? Catch up at these excellent sites: