Translated by David Hackston
I was really excited to add another Finnish author to my Nordic reading list. The Rabbit Factor is my first encounter with Antti Tuomainen’s unique thriller style which reminded me of the Coen brothers with its dark comedy leanings. It won’t be my last, because I loved this novel, and it’s touted to the first in a series. Also, what’s more, it’s being adapted for our screens with Steve Carrell starring – and by the time you’ve met Henri Koskinen, you couldn’t think of anyone better to play the lead character in this book.
But I’m racing ahead. Henri Koskinen is an actuary – he lives for numbers, spending his days calculating risk and doing the figures. He’s very good at it, and loves nothing more than being shut away in his office to do his maths. But his company moves offices and in the accompanying management makeover, offices are gone to be replaced by open-plan.
Now when I arrived at our open-plan office every morning, I always felt the same annoyance and disappointment, like a chunk of black ice inside me that refused to melt: I had lost my office. Instead of an office of my own, I now had a workstation.
Not just a workstation, but a proximity to colleagues too…
I didn’t like them and I didn’t like our open-plan office. It was noisy, full of distractions, interruptions, banalties. But more than anything, it was full of people. I didn’t like the things that so many others seemed to like: spontaneous conversations, the continual ask for and giving of advice, the constant cheap banter. I didn’t see what it had to do with demanding probability calculations.
If we didn’t know better, we’d think that Henri is the most boring accountant ever. However, earlier in this chapter we know he has a sense of aesthetics when he comments on the beautiful autumn scenery where his lives. He just loves maths, but there is a heart in there somewhere. Needless to say, because he doesn’t want to fit in at work, they
fire him allow him to resign, and then he is told his brother Juhani has died – a double whammy.
Juhani has left him his Adventure Park, not to be confused with an amusement park with rides. In an adventure park, it is the people that move themselves on the structures in the park (this distinction will be a running joke throughout the book). Juhani is the total opposite in character to Henri, and when Henri goes to the park to start looking at its books and how to run it, he finds that his brother has borrowed up to the hilt from loan sharks. Then there are the staff. Venla is meant to be on the gate, but is always sick, so young Kristian, whom Juhani had promised a promotion to, does the tickets. Laura who seems efficient in managing the park day to day has something about her that disconcerts Henri, Minttu K does the marketing is plain scary.
It doesn’t take Henri long to see that the park is actually holding its own financially. So why the big loans? What was Juhani up to? Well, Henri will find out when the first gangsters turn up wanting their money back with menaces.
Henri may be a fish out of water in running the park, but he knows how to blind people with mathematics, and when he proposes a plan to the big gangster boss to help him launder his money and pay back the loans, the big boss knows he’s on to something good. In between getting a meeting with the boss though, the under gangsters who had no numerical understanding at all are after him, and that’s when Henri is set upon in the closed adventure park and the giant rabbit’s broken ear on the cover comes in rather useful.
Henri discovers he has a flair for many things he never thought he’d do, not least working with people and keeping his staff happy. It’s a lovely comment on office politics and management speak. Henri’s heartstrings are twanged too, as he is more and more intrigued by Laura, who has a merky, interesting past.
This novel is an absolute chucklesome blast, with a plot that fairly zips by and such a wonderful lead in Henri. He’s the underdog that comes out on top, so much more than a walking calculator. I’ll be excited to see what Tuomainen dreams up for him next, if this does become a series. Meanwhile, I already have his earlier novel Little Siberia on my shelves.
Source: Review copy – Thank you! Orenda hardback, 294 pages.
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