Helsinki Today journalist Janne Vuori, the narrator of this grim, thought-provoking crime thriller from Tuomainen (The Healer), receives an anonymous letter asking him to investigate a nickel-mining complex owned by Finn Mining Ltd. in Suomalahti, a town in northern Finland. The letter states that the mining activities there could lead to a “full-blown environmental catastrophe.” Eager for a scoop, Janne first makes an unsuccessful trip to Suomalahti, but he later makes progress after finding a dead journalist’s notebooks about the mining operations and talking to a disgruntled former Finn Mining board member. Janne eventually uncovers enough secrets at Suomalahti to put him and his family in danger. Meanwhile, Emil, Janne’s father, who abandoned his wife and child 30 years earlier when Janne was a year old, re-enters his son’s life. Emil is a professional killer, a fact Janne is initially unaware of. Janne comes to realize that he and his father aren’t so very different in this unsettling excursion into Finnish noir. (Feb.)
"U.S. audiences should prepare to be every bit as enthralled as the Finns. . . . Readers attracted either to dystopian fiction or to Scandinavian crime will find gold here." —Booklist starred review on The Healer
"thought-provoking." —Publishers Weekly
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.90(d)|
Read an Excerpt
By Antti Tuomainen, David Hackston
Orenda BooksCopyright © 2015 Antti Tuomainen
All rights reserved.
The mining complex must have been several kilometres in diameter; we were at the western edge of the site. I steered the car to the right-hand side of the car park and switched off the engine. The wind beat snow against the windows. Snowflakes as wide as mittens flew horizontally and vertically, occasionally gathering into fans whirling on an invisible axis, until they spun off their orbit and attacked us like a swarm of mosquitoes.
'What are we doing here?'
I took the keys from the ignition.
'Looking for the truth,' I said.
Rantanen folded his arms across his chest. 'In this weather that's probably easier than taking photos.'
I tightened my scarf, pulled on my woolly hat and checked my pockets: phone, notepad, pen, gloves. I opened the door. Snow slapped me in the face like an enormous, cold hand.
'Keys,' I heard Rantanen shouting.
'Camera,' I replied.
Jari Rantanen: fifty-four years old; just old enough to have become used to a nice, easy job in the media.
The command tower, complete with mirror-glass windows, looked like a checkpoint on the border of a closed-off country. The words PERMITS REQUIRED were displayed in large letters on the wall. Behind the building blew flags belonging to the mining company. I didn't understand why there had to be three of them on three separate flagpoles.
Snowflakes caught on my face, melted. The wind tore through my jeans and long underwear. My thick down jacket offered marginally more protection; after only a few steps it felt as though I'd beenwalking through a snowfield in nothing but my coat. Behind the command tower rose the silhouettes of the mine's factory buildings: the crushing plants, refineries and drainage silos. I walked up the steps to the closed door and pressed the buzzer.
The door opened, and warmth engulfed me in an instant. The man who'd opened the door was wearing a jacket bearing the company logo, and for some reason he had a hard hat on his head.
'I've come to get a permit,' I said.
The man was short and dark-haired, and the area around his mouth was, for want of a better word, untidy.
I nodded towards the sign, a metre and a half tall, hanging on the wall. 'That says I can get an authorisation pass here.'
'How do I get into the complex, then?'
'I'm a reporter. I'm writing an article about the mine.'
'You'll have to contact head office in Helsinki. The PR people are all down south.'
'What about the people who take care of the day-to-day mining operations? Surely they must be here?'
The man seemed to think about this.
'Wait out in the car park,' he said, and pulled the door shut.
I walked down the steps and stopped by a van, which offered a little shelter – brief respite from the flurrying snow and whirling wind.
Ten hours' driving. A glacial car park.
I'd wanted this. Only a day had passed since I'd received the anonymous email.
I hadn't noticed the man's arrival. It was strange, especially when I considered what size of man we were talking about. Perhaps the snow had muffled his footsteps and the wind had swept their weight away.
'Janne Vuori, Helsinki Today.'
The man's hand was like the fork of a truck.
'Antero Kosola, head of security. So, you're writing an article?'
The man's voice was so calm and warm, it seemed to melt the snow around us. Kosola was over one hundred and ninety centimetres tall and must have weighed about one hundred kilogrammes. Everything about him was wide: his shoulders; his jaw, mouth and nose. Only his cheeks were slender. Brown eyes, soft voice. Despite his size there was something small about him, like a bull that knows how to behave in a china shop after all. His black woollen hat was pulled down firmly over his large, round head. He smiled.
'Are we talking unofficially?' I asked.
'Off the record, you mean?'
'I'm old enough to know one thing about reporters: you're never off the record.'
That was that. We looked at one another.
'May I ask, who is your superior?'
A sunny smile. No answer.
'How long have you been working with Finn Mining?' I asked instead.
'From the time the actual digging started. Two and a half years.'
'And has everything been going smoothly? Does the snow and the cold complicate things? Can, say, prolonged heavy snowfall affect the mining?'
'This stuff?' asked Kosola, and looked to the sky as though he'd only just noticed it was snowing. 'Down in Helsinki this kind of weather might make the headlines. No weather for brogues.'
Kosola looked at my feet. My leather ankle boots looked like ballet shoes.
'You can get yourselves kitted out in the village,' he said, like a tourist guide. 'If you're planning on staying around.'
I didn't say anything.
'Well, are you?' Kosola asked again.
I was about to say something when Rantanen appeared beside me. I introduced the men to one another and asked if we could take a photograph of Kosola.
'I'd rather not. I'm not at my best in photos.'
'It's to go alongside the article about the mine.'
'Well, it would hardly go on the fashion pages. One question: why are you here? The main office is in Helsinki. Everyone that can answer your questions is down there.'
'That's precisely why we're here,' I said.
Kosola looked at me. 'Thank you, gentlemen. I have to go.'
He turned and walked off towards the command tower.
'One more question,' I called after him.
Kosola stopped and turned.
'Just in case we do stick around, is there a number where we can contact you?'
'My mobile,' he said and gave me the number, which I typed into my phone's memory.
I slipped my phone into my pocket and stood looking in the direction Kosola had left. I couldn't see him; couldn't even see footprints in the snow. For some reason I thought of a phrase from the email I'd received: ... we're digging our own grave.CHAPTER 2
He was standing at the corner of Museokatu and Runeberginkatu. It was a cold, windy January day; a blizzard was blowing, and he drew the air into his lungs.
New York smelled of hot dogs and exhaust fumes, London smelled of the Underground, Paris of fresh bread, Berlin of heating oil.
As for Helsinki ...
Its innocent smell was like an old cardigan left out in the freezing cold, spattered with salty seawater, fresh pine needles caught in its threads.
He realised he had missed his hometown more than he'd ever realised – or at least admitted to himself. He'd been away for thirty years.
When he had left, Helsinki had been a small city in the truest sense – grey both on the inside and the outside. What he saw now, however, was not the same city.
He walked along Runeberginkatu, leaving the city centre behind him. Here were unchanging streets, unchanging brick houses; so familiar. He arrived at Hesperia Park and spotted the restaurant where he was planning to enjoy a late lunch. The restaurant looked exactly the same as it did all those years ago: the large windows, above them the name of the restaurant in small neon letters, and in the windows the same name in almost a child's handwriting – an E that looked like a set of buttocks and a tiny circle about the I.
The restaurant itself was half full, depending on how you looked at it. (How would he have answered the old water-in-the-glass test? He might have said that when he was younger the glass was always half empty, that he always thirsted for more. Today it was nice to think there was still something in that imaginary glass, and if it was half anything, it was undoubtedly half full. This was one of the goodaspects of growing old: there was more than enough of everything. Everything, that is, except time.)
He left his coat in the cloakroom at the entrance. At this time of day there was nobody working the door. He didn't imagine anyone would want to pinch his run-of-the-mill black, size forty-eight coat. He chose a table beneath the row of windows and knew instantly why he had come here: white tablecloths, artwork hanging on the walls, furniture with a certain gravitas, the small park on the other side of the windows. Now that everything was about to change again, it was important to find things that reminded him of how things used to be.
They had eaten dinner either at this table or at the next one along – nearer to the short bar by the other entrance. He remembered the roundness of Leena's face, the fortified glow of red wine in her glass and on her cheeks, how unaccustomed they were to eating out. He remembered Leena's dark, almost black hair, her beautiful, nervous hands, and how young they were.
He ordered a steak with onion gravy, a dish named after acting legend Tauno Palo, and a bottle of good old sparkling water.
A man and woman were eating at the northern end of the room. They clearly were not a couple, married or otherwise. Probably colleagues, office workers, low-level operatives in a large corporation, the foot soldiers of a sales and marketing department. Again he thought how differently life could have played out.
His dish arrived. He stuck his fork into the steak, piled onions and light-brown gravy on top of the meat and tasted it. Even better than he'd remembered.
Someone once said that our youth is a different country. For him, it was this country, this city. He had last seen Leena when they were both thirty years old.
After finishing his steak, he asked to see the dessert menu and made his decision in all of five seconds.
The waiter took away his plate and poured the remains of the sparkling water into his glass. Something about the last few dropstrickling from the bottle reminded him of his last assignment. This happened more and more often: the most insignificant observation, the tiniest detail, and immediately his mind began to darken in a manner that he wasn't used to.
The trickle of water, the portly man – burned white with electricity in his bathtub, crimson blood in his eyes.
Wherever he looked, his past came to life. He tried it again now as he waited for coffee and dessert. He raised his eyes, saw a bunch of white tulips displayed on the counter in an Alvar Aalto vase. He could sense their scent in his nostrils. The smell carried him back to Malaga.
A dazzling white house with a swimming pool set into a steep hillside. He is waiting in the garden, hidden in the shade of the trees. The smells of a still night: roses, cypresses, rosemary, pine. A pump-action shotgun, a Remington Express, propped against a tree, a Smith & Wesson M500 in his belt. Gangster guns, both of them, and he doesn't like them one bit; but the nature of his work defines the tools of his trade. He has decided to make this look like a drugs-related killing. He hears the BMW jeep approaching, the sound of the motor rising and falling. The driver accelerates up the winding village road; the sound of the vehicle breaks the pristine night. He picks up the shotgun, shrugs it into position, positions himself on the steps between the house and the garage and knows he's in a spot where the car's headlights won't wash over him. The jeep turns into the yard. It slows and comes to a stop. The driver switches off the motor; the lights go out. In a single movement he steps towards the car, raises the shotgun and fires. The windscreen shatters and the driver's upper body is blown apart. He fires a second time, a third, throws the weapon to the ground, walks once round the car, removes the workman's boots, which are far too big for his feet, and changes them for the trainers dangling from his belt, then stamps them into the mud, walks round to the passenger seat, takes the revolver and shoots the driver another five times in what is left of his torso. Two shooters. He picks up the shotgun, walks into the woods and disappears. That night the thousands of flowers around him smell more pungent than ever.
The waiter brings his crème brûlée.CHAPTER 3
Our arrival in the village of Suomalahti was at once gradual and sudden. At first it was impossible to think of the houses at the edge of the road as being linked to one another, but when we finally reached the heart of the village we realised we'd arrived some time ago, that the houses slowly getting closer together formed a chain leading us directly to the centre of 'The Hidden Gem of Northern Finland'. The dots were missing from the 'i's. Perhaps the wind had mistaken them for snowflakes and had whipped them away with the same force as it battered the landscape around us.
I told Rantanen we'd take a short tour of the village, conduct a few interviews and take some photographs to lend the article a bit of local colour. Rantanen replied with a sigh. I drove slowly. A branch of the Cooperative Bank, a supermarket, Kaisa's Hair and Massage Parlour. Petrol station, church, Hyvönen's Motors & Snowmobiles. Funeral services, the optician, a hotel, and Happy Pizza, where today's special appeared to be a faded ham-and-pineapple. Sports Retail Ltd, the local high school, and Maija's Munchies.
The village came to an end.
I glanced in the mirror. The road was empty in both directions. I spun the car with a handbrake turn and pulled up in front of the snowmobile rental firm.
The shop floor smelled of new motors. A moment later a folding door opened in the wall and a man of about my own age stepped towards us. Close-cropped hair, thick arms, and a stocky chest beneath his hoodie; the crest of the Finnish lion round his neck, a round face and blue eyes. He introduced himself as Hyvönen. I explained we were researching an article about the mine.
'It's brought the village nothing but good,' Hyvönen said without hesitation.
I continued with a few follow-up questions. Hyvönen agreed to be photographed, as long as his snowmobiles appeared in the background.
We heard a largely similar story at the salon. The mine was a good thing.
We returned to the car. Rantanen informed me that it was time for lunch. We drove a few hundred metres and I pulled up in front of a detached house. Maija's Munchies on the ground floor, the family home upstairs.
The place was as deserted as the forty-minute drive from the mine into the village. We'd seen nothing but snow and forest, hills and straight roads. The wind had kept us company all the way. As we took the steps up to the door I looked behind: a metre of snow, and plenty more in the sky.
We stepped into the restaurant. A bell jingled above the door. All four tables were empty. We decided to sit by the window. Rantanen placed his camera on the table and pulled a collection of memory cards from his pocket. I could hear someone coming down the wooden staircase and into the kitchen. A moment later a woman walked into the restaurant; I guessed this must be Maija. We exchanged a few quick words about the wind, the snow and the game pie, and with that Maija retreated into the kitchen.
Rantanen was flicking through photographs on the camera's small screen.
'We've got a few decent ones,' he said. 'That should do.'
I tried to see whether he was telling the truth or whether he simply wanted to get back on the road. There were a few good shots. The article would probably feature a lot of graphics and only one photograph – maybe the one with the three company flags fluttering in the blizzard. Behind them the mining complex glowed like a sickly sun.
Maija – I still assumed this woman was Maija – brought us our game pies and mashed potatoes. The brown gravy was piping hot and there was plenty of it. Rantanen had unzipped his jacket. His old woollen jumper was already tight around the stomach, and flashes of his green vest showed between the loose stitches. We ate heartily and agreed that I'd give Rantanen a lift to the airport.
'You're really going to stay on?' Rantanen asked, bemused, even though we'd already discussed the matter.
'I want to look around.'
'You won't get into the mining complex.'
'But the mine is here. Believe me, if there's anything to see, it's right here in front of us.'
'What does it matter?' Rantanen asked. 'We're in the middle of nowhere.'
'There's always something to see, even in the middle of nowhere. And here in particular. This place has got something there's a shortage of everywhere else: clean, untouched nature.'
Rantanen took a mouthful of mineral water, puffed out his cheeks as though to burp.
'You've got an agenda.'
'No, I haven't. I want to write an article.'
'You're an eco-warrior.'
'I am not.'
'So what's going on?'
I explained what I'd found out with just a few quick phone calls and a little reading. The mine at Suomalahti was a nickel mine. One of the main uses of nickel is in the production of steel, which is then made into supporting girders for bridges and other, smaller components. The mine was owned by a company called Finn Mining Ltd, which also owned another three mines. Finn Mining Ltd had bought the rights to the Suomalahti site for only two euros. The public explanation for this low sale price was that, at the time of the purchase, undertaking mining operations here was only a theoretical possibility. Getting started depended on a variety of factors: the quantities of ore in the ground, the results of exploratory digging, the projected environmental effects, securing sufficient funding, among dozens of others. Still ... two euros. The project quickly garnered cross-party political support: on the one hand from those who on a national level backed policies based on flagrant vested interests, policies that were incredibly detrimental to the national economy; and on the other from those for whom any project that might employ a handful of people in a remote community – no matter how many millions of euros that project would swallow up, or how great an impact it would have on the environment or the health of local residents – was a fantastic, unrivalled investment oozing innovation. Of the two hundred MPs in the Finnish Parliament, roughly one hundred and ninety-eight fitted into these two categories. The remaining two would doubtless have supported it too, had they bothered to read the final report on the project, which was brimming with misleading superlatives cooked up by a bunch of bribed lobbyists.
Excerpted from The Mine by Antti Tuomainen, David Hackston. Copyright © 2015 Antti Tuomainen. Excerpted by permission of Orenda Books.
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