Saturday, 17 December 2016

Book review - The Mine by Antti Tuomainen (translated by David Hackston)

A hitman. A journalist. A family torn apart. Can he uncover the truth before it’s too late?

In the dead of winter, investigative reporter Janne Vuori sets out to uncover the truth about a mining company, whose illegal activities have created an environmental disaster in a small town in Northern Finland. When the company’s executives begin to die in a string of mysterious accidents, and Janne’s personal life starts to unravel, past meets present in a catastrophic series of events that could cost him his life.

A traumatic story of family, a study in corruption, and a shocking reminder that secrets from the past can return to haunt us, with deadly results … The Mine is a gripping, beautifully written, terrifying and explosive thriller by the King of Helsinki Noir.

When Janne Vuori receives an anonymous tip off suggesting a nickel mine in northern Finland is engaged in hazardous activities he can't help to be interested. As an ambitious journalist he realises this could be an important story. He persuades his boss to allow him to conduct an investigation but as he delves further into the corrupt mining company's actions both he and his family - his wife Pauliina and two year old daughter Ella - are under threat. Slowly his personal life falls apart. He and Pauliina have stopped communicating, both angry with each other. She resents his preoccupation with his job but he is consumed with a need to write and to know the truth. Meanwhile the father he hasn't seen for thirty years comes back into his life and he isn't sure what relationship, if any, he wants with this man.
The Mine is a conspiracy thriller but it's also three stories in one, stories that are inextricably linked to each other. The first is Janne's investigation, gradually the truth is revealed and I have to say I really appreciated the pace of this book. This is not a story that races to an explosive finish, it's mostly written in the first person from Janne's viewpoint and as such we experience the frustrations he feels as he is faced with false leads and uncertainties. Tuomainen has a wonderful writing style, he doesn't use words unnecessarily yet his descriptions are vivid and he creates an atmospheric and tense story that draws the reader in. The second story within the book is that of Janne's personal life, the sense of regret and bitterness is palpable. Sometimes in thrillers I feel the protagonist's messy home life feels one dimensional, this is definitely not the case here. The characters' anger, disappointment and need for acceptance if not forgiveness are believable and ultimately quite touching. The third story within the story is told in the third person and is less about Janne than about a hitman, ruthless, experienced and seemingly cold but is slowly revealed to be more than a heartless killer and whose actions are directly linked both to Janne and his investigation. The three parts of the story combine to form a book that is taut, compelling and drew me in from start to finish. This is the second book I've read for Orenda Books blog tour, The Finnish Invasion and I feel I can't finish without praising the work of David Hackston who has translated both books so they flow seamlessly. Orenda is a small publisher whose output continues to impress me, they have become my go to for innovative fiction I know I will enjoy. Many thanks for my copy of The Mine received in return for my review.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Book Review - The Exiled by Kati Hiekkapelto (translated by David Hackston)

Murder. Corruption. Dark secrets. A titanic wave of refugees. Can Anna solve a terrifying case that's become personal?

The Exiled is Kati Hiekkapelto's third book featuring police investigator Anna Fekete but true to form it's the first book I have read by this author. Thankfully it's a book that can be read as a standalone and although I intend to read the two preceding books (The Hummingbird and The Defenceless), I don't feel not having read them had a negative impact on my enjoyment of what is a cracking story.
Although described as Scandi or Nordic noir, the book is actually set in Serbia. Anna Fekete has returned to the country of her birth for a holiday and looks forward to spending time with her mother and her childhood friends. However, when her bag is snatched during a local wine festival, what appears to be an opportune crime turns out to be something much darker. Anna's relaxing holiday becomes an investigation into murder and corruption and it's a case that links directly to her own family history. Meanwhile the refugee crisis is spreading across Europe, and Anna as an exile herself struggles with the reactions of some of her peers and countrymen to the influx of foreigners to their country.
I loved The Exiled for many reasons. Firstly it's a superb thriller, it's dark and suspenseful, Anna's investigation means we know the townsfolk aren't all they seem and it could result in her life being in danger. This is a proper chilling and tense page-turner of a mystery. As good as it is as a thriller though, what really makes The Exiled stand out for me is its very human soul. This is actually a book about not belonging. The refugee crisis is handled with sensitivity not sentimentality, The Exiled is bitingly current yet not feeling you belong is an experience shared by many in a turbulent and often brutal world and Hiekkapelto understands this. She writes with an uncompromising honesty about the human condition. Whether it is the most recent refugees, the Romany gypsies struggling to survive in a world where they are often seen as criminals or Fekete herself, exiled to Finland during the Balkan wars, now not sure if her adopted country or the country of her birth is her home, the theme running through the book is that of feeling out of place, of the desperate need to put down roots and to belong.
I truly loved The Exiled and am honoured to be a part of a blog tour to highlight the quality of writing coming out of Finland. Please see below for more stops on the tour and check out some of the other blog posts about this superb book and talented author.

The Exiled is published in the UK by Orenda Books. Many thanks for my advance copy received in return for my honest review.