THE MAN WHO DIED is a stand-alone novel by Antti Tuomainen, a clever, minimal and brilliant story of one man’s hunt for his own killer. Full disclosure: I love Fargo, and when I saw this novel described in reference to that particular movie/series, my expectations for this novel shot through the roof. Luckily, it did not disappoint.
That nod to Fargo comes out clearly in the faintly absurd takes on normal situations that become hilarious in the blackest of ways. Jaakko is a moderately successful mushroom farmer with a few issues on his hands — there’s new competition in town, trouble at home, and he’s just been told he’s dying of organ failure as a result of long-term, deliberate poisoning. His to-do list narrows to two things: save his business and find out who killed him.
It’s actually difficult to describe this book without spoiling anything, as Tuomainen writes with the minimal sensibility so often found in Scandanavian/Nordic noir. Every sentence propels you further into the story, with not a moment wasted. It’s this pace and drive that takes this from a whodunnit to a thriller, as Jaakko investigates his own murder.
One thing I especially loved about this book was the characters — they’re all unique and quirky, and Jaakko is an absolute amateur when it comes to detective work. Tuomainen does a great job of keeping Jaakko believable and likeable; he’s not a master detective and never will be; he blunders his way through the investigation with lucky escapes and clues falling into his lap, making to-do lists and trying to figure it out. Despite the oddness in this book, it helps to keep it quite believable.
THE MAN WHO DIED is so enjoyable, I sat down and read it in one sitting — so make sure you clear a couple of hours when you pick this one up (and I highly recommend you do), because you won’t be able to put it down!