A man with dark thoughts on his mind is racing along the remote snowy roads of Hurmevaara in Finland, when there is flash in the sky and something crashes into the car. That something turns about to be a highly valuable meteorite. With euro signs lighting up the eyes of the locals, the unexpected treasure is temporarily placed in a neighbourhood museum, under the watchful eye of a priest named Joel.
But Joel has a lot more on his mind than simply protecting the riches that have apparently rained down from heaven. His wife has just revealed that she is pregnant. Unfortunately, Joel has strong reason to think the baby isn’t his.
As Joel tries to fend off repeated and bungled attempts to steal the meteorite, he must also come to terms with his own situation, and discover who the father of the baby really is.
I could not be more thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour today for Little Siberia by Antti Tuomianen. Regular readers of the blog will recall that his last book, Palm Beach Finland, was one of my Top Ten Books of 2018. (You can read my review of that book, here.) Huge thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for my coveted spot on the tour and to the author and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
Sometimes when you read a book you have to marvel at the ways people’s minds work. I just know that I could never come up with this story and you can understand why people frequently ask authors that age-old question, ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ I know it is a trite and boring enquiry, but I really would like to know where this author gets his ideas from, because this one is literally out of this world.
The story in question here being, what happens when a meteorite that might be worth a million euros hurtles to earth, lands in a remote Finnish town peopled with dubious characters who all seem to need money for a variety of nefarious reasons and lies in the town museum for four days, guarded only by the town priest, who is atypical in every way? Mayhem, that’s what.
This book is another masterpiece by Antti Tuomainen, and another book that will bear repeated reading to peel backs the layers of nuance that run through it. On the surface, this could be a straight forward thriller, with a variety of baddies battling bloodily for possession of the potentially profitable inter-planetary pebble. There is a lot of slapstick mishaps as different folk try to snatch the meteorite from one another, with varying degrees of success, which has a lot of comedic value for the reader, but beyond that, their stories are revealing about life in a remote, northern backwater where there are endless days of darkness, a claustrophobic community where little changes and everyone knows everyone’s business and we learn the different motives that drive people to commit acts they might not otherwise be able to imagine themselves doing.
The choice of narrator and ‘hero’ of the book is fascinating and a genius move. We have a priest, Joel, who would by nature of his job be at the centre of village life and privy to private information that other would not know. Ideally placed to unveil the story. Beyond this, though, Joel is no ordinary priest. He is not native to the village for a start and, as anyone who has lived in a small community knows, if you weren’t born there, you will always be an ‘incomer’ and treated slightly with suspicion. He is also no ordinary priest. He is a war veteran with the wounds, physical and emotional, to show for it. He also seems to have an unusual approach to his religion, not fervently pushing it in his parishioners, but calmly accepting their questioning of it to a degree that the reader must question how strong his own belief remains. This early line from the book marked him out as different from the early stages, “I spent half an hour reading the Bible, and the rest of the night with James Ellroy.”
So, for me, one of the themes of the book that stood out for me was the question of faith, the testing of faith, whether the committing of obviously illegal acts in the pursuit of justice is morally excusable, and where the line between good and evil really falls. Or maybe I am searching for meaning where there isn’t any and this is simply a thrilling heist story? Having read Antti’s books before, I don’t think so, there are a million ways to read this book. What do you see? Does Joel renew his faith through his trials? You’ll have to read the book and draw your own conclusions.
One of the most compelling things about this author’s writing, is the fantastic sense of place he always manages to imbue his books with, and this is no exception. The dark and bleak landscape are the perfect foil for the lives of these characters, and create the understandable environment for their discontent to blossom. The oppressive nature of being trapped in a tiny town on the edge of the world with nowhere else to go, nothing new to experience, no-one new to meet, flows from the page to infect the reader and make the character’s behaviours, if not excusable, then at least more understandable, which is quite a feat given how unpleasant some of them are.
The characters themselves are a joy to read, as always. Aside from the Joel himself, we have a drunken discontent in the shape of the local once-famous-now-failed rally driver, two Russian henchmen (one love-lorn to add extra amusement), a femme fatale, local business owners with their own small town troubles, and the ongoing mystery of who might be the father of the infertile priest’s wife’s baby. For a small town, there is certainly a lot going on under the surface and all it took was one tiny space stone to bring it all to the surface, who knew?
This book is a tad darker than Antti’s last one, but still imbued with a vein of black humour, as well as providing a thrilling heist story and additional layers of ideas to unpeel. His books never fail to provide a read that rewards the reader above and beyond expectations.
Little Siberia is out now in e-book format and will be published in paperback on 17 October and you can get a copy here.
The book is taking an extended tour throughout October and there are many other fabulous bloggers on board so do check out their reviews:
About the Author
Finnish Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011, Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. Two years later, 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.
Connect with Antti:
Facebook: Antti Tuomainen Official