Friday, September 9, 2016

Review of Dark As My Heart by Antti Tuomainen (Harvill Secker, 2015)

When aged thirteen Aleksi’s mother was murdered.  The killer was never apprehended.  Twenty years later Aleksi is convinced he knows the identity of the killer.  Henrik Saarinen is a multi-millionaire who owns multiple companies and properties.  One of the properties is an isolated estate and Aleksi has managed to secure the job of caretaker.  Using his new position as cover he tries to gather evidence that Saarinen was responsible for his mother’s death and that of another woman ten years later, while jousting with Saarinen’s beautiful daughter, the surly chauffer, the distant cook, and Saarinen himself.  Aleksi soon finds himself being drawn into a fraught set of games between the household members, but never loses sense of his mission. 

Set in Helsinki and surrounding countryside, Dark As My Heart is a tale of seeking justice for a crime committed twenty years previously.  A child at the time of his mother’s death, Aleksi is convinced he knows the identity of his mother’s killer but has been unable to convince the police to re-open the investigation.  His suspect is a wealthy businessman used to getting his own way.  After years of trying to find a way to get to close to his quarry, Aleksi manages to find employment in the businessman’s country residence.  While a useful plot device, I was never really swayed by the idea that the suspected killer, having done background checks, would hire the murdered woman’s son.  Nor was I persuaded by the ensuing plot and the denouement felt overly contrived and rushed, especially with respect to the seemingly reluctant policeman.  The result was a story that was sombre and relatively slow paced for much of its telling, and which I just never quite believed.  A kind of contemporary Greek tragedy tale that held my interest but little more.

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