Palm Beach, Finland by Antti Tuomainen
After finishing THE MAN WHO DIED in almost record time, PALM BEACH FINLAND was recommended in the highest possible terms, so the audio version of it was obtained and listened to with haste. Another one that should have come with a warning about driving and listening, because I don't know how I've managed to survive these books whilst dodging kangaroos and dust storms on the roads recently. Needless to say PALM BEACH FINLAND is funny and a bit mad (in a good way), but it's a different sort of funny/mad to THE MAN WHO DIED.
The entire scenario here is dry as the aforementioned dust funny. Set in a beach location in Finland, that a local "entrepreneur" Jorma Leivo, is determined to turn into a Palm Beach styled resort, the location scenario provides plenty of opportunity for some really funny observations - not the least of which is Leivo's determination that it will be the vacation of choice for the rich and famous, the yacht set, presumably (but not articulated) those prepared to brave Finland's version of a Palm Beach climate. The only stumbling block (apart from the mould and characterless accommodation chalets, and maybe the plastic palm trees), is the need to expand just a little to create the perfect marina environment.
The book starts out with the bizarre death of a man in a nearby house, moving through that investigation, to beach activities, a lot of cycling, some hiding in the bushes peeping at elderly ladies indulging their attraction for each other, a lot of bizarre goings on by two of the most unqualified killers you'd ever met, and some of the most bumbling attempts at cover up you're ever going to encounter. Police are baffled by the murder, the victim's identity, his reason for being in a house where he was completely unknown, through the very odd way he was killed, right up to why and .... well everything about everything to do with the whole crime. Olivia (the owner of the house) is equally baffled, and police hierarchy become concerned that the investigation of such an odd killing is going nowhere. Meanwhile interest has been raised in bigger criminal circles, and a couple of local ... idiots is really the only word that can be applied here ... are confused. Mind you Olivia, who inherited the run down property on the death of her father is, frankly, more worried about her immediate problems with plumbing than why a total stranger got himself bumped off in her kitchen, and slightly bemused at the amount of effort Leivo seems to be putting into frightening her into believing that she's in great danger. Meanwhile an undercover detective (Jan Nyman) is despatched to solve the case, although the genius that decided somebody with zero mathematical ability should masquerade as a maths teacher on vacation, hasn't thought it through at all, and Olivia might be worried about money and unhappy with her job opportunities, but she's not an idiot and she can smell a rat when one lobs on her doorstep wanting wind surfing lessons.
Needless to say, we're in different territory again. Different territory seems to be Antti Tuomainen's comfort zone though and a dark, dry, laid back sense of humour is the thing you're going to notice in these books, although utterly unbelievable plots delivered in a totally believable manner might also occur to you. It's an elegant balancing act as the crime itself is not downplayed, although everybody here seems to be pre-programmed to approach things from just left of a bit daft, no matter their motivations. The motivations are very real - from revenge to attraction, and that all too human combination of greed and stupidity. Add a bit of grandiose ambition and you've got a full hand.
Regardless of the way that Antti Tuomainen designs and deals the cards in any of his books, you can expect something quirky, different, readable, and clever. Next up THE MINE.
Jan Nyman, the ace detective of the covert operations unit of the National Central Police, is sent to a sleepy seaside town to investigate a mysterious death. Nyman arrives in the town dominated by a bizarre holiday village—the "hottest beach in Finland." The suspect: Olivia Koski, who has only recently returned to her old hometown. The mission: find out what happened, by any means necessary. With a nod to Fargo, and dark noir, Palm Beach, Finland is both a page-turning thriller and a black comedy about lust for money, fleeing dreams, and people struggling at turning points in their lives—chasing their fantasies regardless of reason.