Tuomainen, Antti - 'The Healer' (translated by Lola Rogers)
I felt the rain, first softly on my face, a moment later in swift, freezing drops that slid down into my collar. I looked at the dark, rain-soaked street and then glanced around - I didn't see anything that screamed mass murderer, or missing wife.
Helsinki. Three days before Christmas.
It is a dystopian future brought about by climate change: with Finnish social structure crumbling; people homeless, jobless, and on the move; violence both casual and intended everywhere. The police are underfunded and understaffed and the rich maintain their homes with private security firms whose brutal patrols rule the streets. Tapani knows that the police will or can do very little to find Johanna. If anyone finds her, it has to be him. But as Tapani uncovers more about the killer she was tracking, he also uncovers more about Johanna's life before their marriage. It is a past he never shared with her.
For fans of Nordic Noir with criminal roots in society, THE HEALER moves that society into a brilliantly imagined, flooded, future. This is not a sci-fi story about a cataclysmic event. It is a crime story set within the decline and disintegration brought about by climate change. It is also a love story. A story about a man who has faith in his and his wife's mutual love. And the lengths that he will go in order to find her.
Finnish writer Antti Tuomainen has published two crime novels prior to THE HEALER. And has published another since. (I hope someone does some retrospective translation.) His favourite writing advice comes from American crime writer Lawrence Block: "write what you want and don't expect anything." And how else can you come up with the notion of "dystopian climate-change crime fiction/love story"? Translated convincingly by Seattle-based Lola Rogers (who has translated a broad range of Finnish writing) THE HEALER is gripping, violent, suspenseful, vividly imagined and beautifully written. It is also moving. A novel around a crime around a love story set in a frightening future world. If you can cope with the idea of such a book (and I think it may be the first in this category) you must read THE HEALER. Because I love this book. And I really want the chance to read more Tuomainen.
Read another review of THE HEALER.
Lynn Harvey, England
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.