Insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen has finally restored order both to his life and to YouMeFun, the adventure park he now owns, when a man from the past appears – and turns everything upside down again. More problems arise when the park’s equipment supplier is taken over by a shady trio, with confusing demands. Why won’t Toy of Finland Ltd sell the new Moose Chute to Henri when he needs it as the park’s main attraction? Meanwhile, Henri’s relationship with artist Laura has reached breaking point, and, in order to survive this new chaotic world, he must push every calculation to its limits, before it’s too late…
In these utterly absurd times, what a joy it is to return to the world of the YouMeFun adventure park, we first visited in Antti Tuomainen’s wonderful introduction to this trilogy, The Rabbit Factor.
With the park still under the management of former actuary Henri Koskinen and his assorted blend of weird and wacky employees, the book opens with Henri at the hands of some unscrupulous equipment suppliers, refusing to hand over the creme de la creme of their catalogue, The Moose Chute, and a not wholly welcome return of a figure from Henri’s past. Still navigating the very real human emotions of love and loyalty, trying to avoid those with murderous intent, and endeavouring to hide his own criminal acts from an astute detective, Henri is once again inveigled in a world of trouble…
The character of Henri is the absolute lynchpin to the enjoyment of these books for me, with his primary existence influenced and led by his staunch belief in the power of mathematics,
“It doesn’t care about our wishes and expectations. It doesn’t approach any problems emotionally or by in any way colouring reality. It tells us the truth, unflinchingly and unequivocally,”
very much as Henri reacts with the world on a day-to-day level, making potential affairs of the hear an absolute minefield of confusion for him. He also has a totally charming inability to react with other people in the natural way that most of us take for granted. A typical Henri-ism would be something like this…
“I stood up and walked to the steel coat rail by the doorway. I pulled on my coat, tied my woollen scarf loosely, but carefully, so as to provide optimal heat above my tie”
He also makes the most astute and slightly off-kilter observations about people,
“And his shoes, when I finally see them, don’t match the rest of his outfit at all. They are new, brown and polished. They look small and delicate on his feet, like a moose wearing a pair of ballet shoes.”
Henri’s suppressed ability to interact with people, is put under severe pressure in this one, as his staff- who are a curious, and beautifully characterised bunch of very distinct individuals, have growing rumblings of mutiny, and his once safe space of business and collateral comes under another’s unwelcome influence. He’s also managing to alienate his pet cat, Schopenhauer, a normally useful sounding board for Henri’s ruminations, but who is growing distinctly chillier towards his owner.
The actual storyline is pretty nuts as usual, as who knew such dark and dastardly deeds could take root in a family adventure park? Who knew that the sourcing of play equipment could produce a maelstrom of violence and blackmail? Just when will dogged detective Osmala uncover the truth of the fiendish murders, committed with a plastic rabbit ear and a giant fake strawberry? Yes, you did read that right…
If you’ve read this far and think this all sounds a bit ‘out there’, yes you would be right, but thanks to the astute and utterly engaging writing style of Tuomainen, in both this and some of his other slightly off-the-wall books, it’s so easy to embrace the absurd, find yourself stifling the giggles on public transport, and completely lose yourself in this madcap world. Tuomainen has such a natural ability to highlight the best and worst of human nature, arousing our empathy with those who perhaps do not perceive or interact with the world in the same way as others and delineating his characters into clearly defined good guys and bad guys, He engages his readers with the sheer entertainment of these particular scenarios he concocts, to enter this small world where disloyalty, faltering human connections, murder and mayhem reign supreme, but all underscored with a dark wit and underlying warmth that will charm and engage you. I think that The Moose Paradox has increased my love for this series so far, and I will await with an air of nervous anticipation the last book of the trilogy, where hopefully man and cat are reunited in harmony, the Lemming Log Flume is safely acquired and installed, and some other ne’er-do-well will be murdered in another bizarre way. I can’t wait!
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. Follow on Twitter @antti_tuomainen
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)
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