The Healer by @antti_tuomainen #BookReview

It's two days before Christmas and Helsinki is battling ruthless climate catastrophe: subway tunnels are flooded; the streets are full of abandoned vehicles; the social order is crumbling and private security firms have undermined the police force. Tapani Lehtinen, a struggling poet, is among the few still willing to live in the city.

When Tapani's journalist wife Johanna goes missing, he embarks on a frantic hunt for her. Johanna's disappearance seems to be connected to a story she was researching about a serial killer known as 'The Healer'. Determined to find Johanna, Tapani's search leads him to uncover secrets from her past: secrets that connect her to the very murders she was investigating...

It was New Year's Eve, the end of year TV shows weren't holding my attention and so naturally I turned to my bookcase. The Healer is a dystopian thriller which isn't perhaps the most obvious choice of book to read during the celebrations (although given the events of the past year, perhaps totally fitting...) but The Man Who Died was one of my top reads of the year so it seemed right to see out 2017 with a previous book by one of my favourite authors.
Set in the near future, climate change has become climate disaster. Countries are on the verge of destruction, wars and conflicts are breaking out worldwide, an estimated 650-800 million people are climate refugees and there are pandemic warnings in place for H3N3, malaria, tuberculosis, Ebola and the plague. In short, things are bleak. Finland may have suffered months of unrelenting rain, its waterfront neighbourhoods continuously flooded with many residents forced to move out but nevertheless scores of refugees from the worst hit countries continue to arrive, hoping to find some sort of shelter. Tapani Lehinen has more pressing concerns however, his wife is missing. Johanna is a journalist and has been researching a story about a serial killer known as 'The Healer.' Tapani knows the police don't have the time or the resources to look into her disappearance so he is forced to hunt for his wife himself. As he learns the truth about his wife's past, Tapani uncovers shocking secrets and must decide who he can trust. The city has become a place of outsiders, of broken communities and violence and his investigation will lead him into ever more danger. This is an intriguing mystery, suspenseful and menacing.
As a thriller alone, The Healer is superb writing, dark and tense with some chilling twists but it's the very human emotions described here that really got under my skin. Tapani's longing for his wife is so evocatively described as to be palpable, I ached with him. Tapani is an everyman, he's accepted his poetry isn't going to make him well known, all he wants is to live out his days with the woman he loves. As his search for her continues, his discoveries lead to him experiencing painful jealousy and paranoia alongside the fear and desperation but still he is driven to find her. The Healer is imbued with a sense of melancholy, the constant rain a symbolic representation of the tears of a planet doomed by its own people and yet there's a bittersweet poignancy to it too, as despite the uncertain future, love still exists and is still what matters most. 
The action takes place a few days before Christmas and so the apocalyptic weather, the ruthlessness and brutality of many of the citizens still trying to live in Helsinki, and Tapani's struggles - both on the streets and in his mind - are in sharp juxtaposition to what is usually considered a season of light and hope. The Healer sees humanity at its most desperate, there is little optimism for the future and yet the simple act of loving someone and being loved back is still enough. 
Antti Tuomainen has written a thriller that is dark, unsettling and deeply atmospheric,  it's also really quite touching, and there's some lovely flashes of the dry wit here and there that made The Man Who Died such a joy to read. The Healer meant I started 2018 with a hangover but as it was a book hangover I can forgive Antti! This is a clever, compelling and beautifully written novel that I lost myself in, an absolute treat of a book.

The Healer was published in the UK by Harvill Secker and Vintage and can be purchased here.

About the Author 

Antti Tuomainen is the award-winning author of six novels: A Killer I Wish, My Brother’s Keeper, The Healer, Dark as My Heart, The Mine and his latest – The Man Who Died. He has been called ‘The King of Helsinki Noir’ by the Finnish press and his writing has garnered attention worldwide.
In 2011 his third novel The Healer was awarded the Clue Award for Best Finnish Crime Novel and has subsequently been published in 27 countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Brazil, China, Iceland, Turkey and Greece, among others.
His fourth novel, Dark as My Heart has been voted the best crime novel of the past decade by the readers of a Finnish crime fiction magazine. The novel was also nominated for the prestigious Petrona-prize in the UK in 2016.
His sixth novel The Man Who Died was published in Finland in September 2016. The novel has been optioned by Finnish production company Luminoir and is currently in development for feature film. Publishing rights for The Man Who Died have been sold to the UK, France and Germany, among others.
Antti’s seventh novel, titled Palm Beach Finland, was published in September 2017 in Finland.
Antti has been a featured guest on numerous literary festivals, events, panels and book tours in the UK, Germany, France, the United States, Spain, Italy, Romania, Iceland, Norway, Hong Kong and Northern Ireland.
Antti was born in Helsinki, Finland where he lives with his wife. In addition to novels, he also writes short stories and magazine articles.