The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen and David Hackston (translator)

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The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen and David Hackston (translator)

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Category: Crime
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Scandi-crime takes a turn east and arrives in Finland – for an innocent embroiled with money-laundering loan sharks sniffing around a kids' play venue. This has a touch of the 'cosy crime' feel to it, and introduces a well-conveyed oddball.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 300 Date: October 2021
Publisher: Orenda Books
ISBN: 978-1913193874

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Meet Henri. With a mind so much more focused on maths and calculations than it is other human beings, he's perfect for his job in the insurance company – until they decide he's not a team-member, that they'd prefer everyone to be all open-plan, holistic and keen on stupid-as workshopping. This is when he finds his brother has died, having a heart attack while busy changing his Volvo's radio channel, and has left Henri everything. Unfortunately (or otherwise) that 'everything' is just an adventure park, and nothing else. YouMeFun is so not what Henri wants to occupy his mind, but he perks up a little when he sees huge holes in the finances – it runs at a steady money-moving pace, despite some desultory staff ideas, but loans have been made out and the amount vanished. Fortunately (or otherwise) some people are quickly on the scene to explain that missing money – it's been turned into a gambling debt that has also now been inherited by Henri, and the activities of these guys are not conducive to getting a cheap life insurance plan...

Starting mid-action and playing catch-up, this thriller has the immediacy you want. It has the personable first person, present tense narration as well, getting you right into Henri's mind. It's a mind that you can see the other characters struggling to like – he's very pedantic as to whether it is an adventure park or an amusement park, he spouts bits of maths trivia at you, and generally seems borderline on the spectrum. He makes for a very reasonable fish-out-of-water, and watching him use what little he has to get himself out of the mess he's been left with is the core of the novel.

But the other thing of note is that this is definitely, laboriously, billed as by a very funny writer. And so I came here, wondering about the very rabbit factor (a huge bunny mascot is used to unexpected effect early on), looking forward to some Finnish crime for a change, and perhaps hoping to find the author everyone had tried to tell me Carl Hiaasen was. And I have to say this really takes its time over showing its sense of humour, for there were vast swathes when I was wondering if a Hiaasen-like gap between expectation and result was going to appear again. But give it time, witness the blackly comedic bank meeting, add that to Henri's particular way of observing things and people and how his mind constantly tries to calculate and optimise everything, and contrast that with a quite heart-warming connection with a colleague, and you find yourself won over by something that doesn't exactly raise laughs, but certainly causes smiles.

That said, what takes a time to appear can also disappear a bit too quickly. This didn't have the feel of a terribly even book, with everything such as the criminality, the humour and even Henri's character allowed to drift away from the page a little too readily. There's also a case to say this isn't an utterly Finnish book – there's so little here that felt unique to that country. But with it all, despite my misgivings, and partly because a stage in the conclusion didn't quite convince, I would not be against seeing where this series goes from here. It's rare to find a book so wrapped-up and stand-alone-seeming yet billed deliberately as the first time this author intends sequels to his thrillers. I think my desire to see more would be the result of how successfully this peculiar fish was brought to mind by these pages. And add a love of the slightly cosy crime caper to that, as I can easily see other readers doing, and this will hold a great appeal. The news Amazon want to make a Hollywood movie of it – and the intended casting – is not a major shock.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

What's that? You'd like more Finnish crime? Nights of Awe (Ariel Kafka Mystery) by Harri Nykanen and Kristian London (translator) started off a well-received trilogy.

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Buy The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen and David Hackston (translator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen and David Hackston (translator) at Amazon.com.

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