Review - DARK AS MY HEART, Antti Tuomainen
The exploration of consequences is beautifully executed in Antti Tuomainen’s mesmerising DARK AS MY HEART. That he is an award winning author comes as no surprise, but of the five novels to his name in his native Finland, the third “The Healer” and this, his fourth novel, are so far the only ones translated into English. Needless to say THE HEALER is now on the TBR pile.
Aleksi Kivi was thirteen years old when his mother vanished. Now, twenty years on, he’s still haunted by her murder, and his feelings of recognition and utter belief that the millionaire owner of the company his mother worked for is responsible for that death could seem like obsession. That possibility is tempered elegantly by his quiet determination, and his willingness to observe, check and insinuate himself into Saarinen’s life in order to discover the truth.
Working as a live-in caretaker on a remote seaside property belonging to Saarinen that insinuation is planned and precisely executed, getting to know members of Saarinen’s family and staff, in particular, dangerously close to his erratic and disturbed daughter Amanda.
Told in a deceptively simple, understated manner which matches the personality and determination of the central character perfectly, there’s a clarity to the storytelling here that truly is mesmerising. The dialogue is sparse and pitched perfectly, establishing emotion, intent, feelings and motivation without having to resort to long, overblown exposition. That perfect touch is applied to the sense of place as well, creating a remote yet luxurious, underpopulated, beautiful yet sinister environment in which Kivi must try to find the truth, and hence allow himself to move on, and to live.
As close to a single sitting read as can be achieved around here, it’s not until after finishing that I realised that what we have in DARK AS MY HEART is about as perfect a combination of character, place and plot as I’ve read in a long time. Classically understated, in that particularly Scandinavian manner that many readers have come to love, the exploration of the why, and the impact of the act are as important to the author as the identification of who.
Aleksi lost his mother on a rainy October day when he was thirteen years old. Twenty years later, he is certain that he knows who's responsible. Everything points to millionaire Henrik Saarinen. The police don't agree. Aleksi has only one option: to get close to Henrik Saarinen and find out the truth about his mother's fate on his own. But as Aleksi soon discovers, delving into Saarinen and his beautiful daughter’s family secrets is a confusing and dangerous enterprise.