Welcome to the Nudge stop on the blog tour for Palm Beach, Finland by Antti Tuomainen!
Here’s Paul’s review of Palm Beach, Finland:
In Finland, the sun shines all year round and the thing with the neck, when it snapped I mean – well, that was an accident!
Finnish people do a nice line in dry humour but Tuomainen also does black comedy, slapstick and and clever wordplay. Really, with Palm Beach, Finland, we’re in dark territory, but at times this novel is so funny you could almost forget that. The trouble, and there’s plenty of it here, stems from two issues: a particularly avaricious group of chancers and a serious grey matter deficiency. Some people are just greedy and money isn’t so much a motivator as a drug. And some of them are also dumb; there’s a scale here from inept to too stupid to be let out on their own in public. This tale has elements of Scott Phillips’ The Ice Harvest and Scott Smith’s A Simple Plan and a touch of The Beverley Hill Billies. If the Coen Brothers made films in Finland, they could do worse than get Tuomainen to do the script. A lot of crazy fun, a fast moving pace and a sly undercurrent of pure noir. Oh, and a bit of a love story too.
It all starts when Kari ‘Chico’ Kohonen arrives at the Palm Beach Florida Resort to meet the new owner, Jormo Leivo – Leivo has a job and Chico needs money, perfect fit (mistake no. 1). This resort used to be Pine View but now it’s had a make over; its all neon colours; garish, lurid and LOUD! Leivo has a dream, this resort is going to rival St. Tropez. “Palm trees freshly planted. Plastic, of course, but still.” Chico’s mate, Robin, tags along (mistake no. 2), Leivo offers them €5,000 to put a bit of pressure on the owner of a property adjoining the resort – just bit of gentle persuasion, encouragement really. Chico protests, this is a bit below his pay grade, he’s an ‘expert’ (I could tell you but I’d have to kill you – sort of stuff), on the other hand he does need the money. They settle on a €200 advance and the pair set off. The property belongs to Olivia Koski, she’s just buried her father and decided to live in his house. It’s secluded, there’s a light shining in one window, so Chico hatches a plan (plan no. 1). They grab a couple of stones and throw them at the window smashing the glass. As they turn to run they hear a yelp of pain, a cry for help. They return to the house and tentatively they open the door to see a face is covered in blood. Chico’s new plan; take Olivia outside, calm her down and pay for the window – only she puts up a fight, a hell of a fight. That’s when the neck thing happens. Only when they look at the body on the ground do they realise that it’s not Olivia, it isn’t even a woman. These two could make getting it wrong an Olympic sport!
Jan Nyman of the National Bureau of Investigation in Vantta is looking forward to a holiday, as luck would have it he’s about to get one. A working holiday at Palm Beach Finland. A body has turned up in the small town, the local police are baffled, the regional police no wiser, it’s a mystery. Nyman is going to go undercover as a maths teacher on holiday. His mission is to poke around a bit, shake things up, find out what’s going on. His boss, Muurla, can’t resist steering him towards the woman who owns the house, she must have paid a couple of guys to do away with her boyfriend. It’s obviously a professional job and he doesn’t believe her story. Olivia claims that she doesn’t even know the dead man. The woman is behind it, thus two and two do make five! Of course, the dead man has friends, in fact a brother, he’s on his way to Palm Beach Finland too. Leivo still has his dream, he needs Olivia’s land, he thinks his two henchmen still need to ‘persuade’ her to leave, they won’t get paid until they do. After all killing the guy didn’t put off Olivia at all. Throw in a couple of would be bounty hunters and it’s all set for a train wreck in the best noir traditions. Mistakes and plans abound in this comedy of errors.
Palm Beach, Finland is edgy, slightly surreal, witty, there’s a little more compassion than the Coen Brothers and some sympathetic characters too. This kind of comedy writing, that still has that darkness, is very difficult to pull off and Tuomainen does it with aplomb. Look out for the flamingo, if you think it’s a good idea you should get on a plane right now and have yourself a holiday at Finland’s finest resort – Palm Beach Finland. Cheaper than a two week break, however; buy the book and enjoy a right rollicking read (brilliantly translated by David Hackston).
Tuomainen, dubbed ‘The King of Helsinki Noir’ by one newspaper, has several novels published in English. The Healer (2013), in a dystopian Helsinki ravaged by climate change Tapani Lehtinen is searching for his missing wife which brings him face to face with serial killer The Healer. It’s a darkly atmospheric and chilling tale. Dark as My Heart (2015) followed, then The Man Who Died (2017), about a businessman man who discovers he is dying because he’s been slowly poisoned. This novel introduced more humour – blackly comic, slightly surreal touch, slightly absurd. These are the traits expanded and amplified in Palm Beach, Finland. The earlier books are darker but what they all share one thing – a genuinely original take.
Paul Burke 5/4
Palm Beach, Finland by Antti Tuomainen
Orenda Books 9781912374311 pbk Oct 2018