"As for Helsinki...its innocent smell was like an old cardigan left out in the freezing cold, spattered with salty seawater, fresh pine needles caught in its threads "
The Mine is the new release from ‘King of Helsinki Noir’ Antti Tuomainen who may not be as well known (yet) as other writers in the Nordic Noir canon but has been praised as a highly distinctive writer and been shortlisted for the coveted Scandinavian Glass Key Award.
Antti Tuomainen’s premise in The Mine is a master-class in genre construct. Following a tip off, investigative journalist Janne Vuori sets out to uncover the truth about a mysterious mine in a remote area of Northern Finland. In the dead of winter, Executives from the firm begin to die in a string of accidents and the mine begins to release its secrets. In a second, and initially unconnected, narrative strand a lone and elderly hitman looks back on his life and work. This is classic Noir from the outset!
I’m reviewing this book as part of Orenda Books Finnish Invasion blog tour which celebrates the best of crime fiction coming out of Finland. Earlier this week I posted by review of fellow Finnish Author Kati Hiekkapelto’s TheExiled.
Tuomainen’s story telling is gripping, the pace is fast and succinct with the whole narrative structured around 3 parts; Nickel, Lead and Gold. Some chapters are a single powerful paragraph whilst others adopt a more pensive prose style that opens up the characters one by one; “He had continued reading over the years, sometimes voraciously, finding new books and new authors, but still the memory of the books he had read all those years ago exceeded everything that has come before”.
Although the drama of the story is strong it is the character development which really sets this novel apart. Janne’s meeting with his estranged father is brilliantly written; “He could see from the man’s eyes that he recognised him, at least on some level, before he fully understood who he was looking at”. Likewise his bitterly failing relationship with his wife unravels in a single paragraph; “The entirety of the conversation after which I lost my family for good...”.
The other highlight of the novel for me is Helsinki itself which Tuomainen brings to life by combining descriptive fact, “Pirjo’s Tavern, a legendary watering hole at the Pirkkolantie intersection”, with unique prose “the bourgeois sleep sound” and vivid detail “It was so quiet that he could almost hear his breath steaming up the windows. This is high quality writing for the thriller genre with a clear and distinct sense of place.
The Mine is an ecological conspiracy drama with all the darkness , secrets and murder we’ve come to love from the Nordic Noir genre but what really sets this novel, and Tuomainen’s writing apart, is the character driven family sub plot which underpins the entire story. The Mine itself is a wonderful metaphor for the hidden secrets and lies that are buried deep within the psyche of man.
I read this novel in paperback (thank you Karen for the advance copy), on a flight between London and Tokyo which took me directly over Northern Finland.
The Mine by Antti Tuomainen and translated by David Hackston, published by Orenda Books, 300 pages.