“Sisu” is an enigmatic Finnish word that does not lend itself to any precise translation. The closest that one can get to deciphering this inscrutable word is to conveniently label the same as a unique and proprietary Finnish concept. A Finnish way of life even. An idea that connotes stoic determination, characterizes a tenacity of purpose, and cleaves resilience with hardiness. It is also the key to life, love and liberty.
Antti Tuomainen, the latest superstar of noir fiction seems to sizzle with “Sisu”. Upending the boiler plate template for crime fiction, Tuomainen makes mordant and gallows humour more appealing than it has ever been done before. “The Rabbit Factor” is a reader’s delight. One part mysterious and two parts rib-tickling, this is a book which cries out for adaptation by every other form of media.
Henri Koskinen is an actuary by profession. The mathematical exactitude which is an uncompromising attribute in his insurance trade is however, an absolute impediment to the people who are acquainted with him. Henri leads his life with a clockwork precision that would even put a Gaussian equation to veritable shame. His extrapolation of the rigours of Mathematics to every human activity means that he is tolerated only by his cat, Schopenhauer, named after the famous German philosopher. Things reach a head when one of Henri’s peers – a man who has the capacity to make the word incompetent seem virtuous – disturbs the pecking order of meritocracy and becomes his boss. Henri is given three simple choices: attempt to resonate with the antics of a greater part of humanity by enrolling himself in asinine boiler template corporate courses (including one on transcendental meditation); spend the rest of his life cloistered in a janitor room performing insurance calculations that are absolutely outdated and consequently unnecessary, or tender his resignation. Preferring self-esteem over serenity, Henri quits his job.
Just when Henri is wrapping his head around his newly introduced misfortune, calamity strikes with neither remorse nor reproof. A lawyer materializes at Henri’s doorstep with a fat bill and a thin will. Informing Henri about his brother Juhani’s unfortunate demise, courtesy a cardiac arrest while driving a Volvo, the lawyer also wistfully adds that Henri is now the sole inheritor of an amusement park named YouMeFun. Proceeding to regale the lawyer about the not so subtle differences between an adventure park and an amusement park, Henri painstakingly educates his befuddled visitor about his inheritance of an adventure park & not an amusement park. The lawyer expresses genuine indifferent to both the nature and nomenclature of the entertainment venue so long as his bill is paid.
Henri pays YouMeFun a visit and upon scrutinizing the financial affairs of the adventure park, is sent into a tailspin. Juhani seems to have cultivated a peculiar affection for an unending stream of loans and an unfortunate link with a few menacing guys adorning the underworld. The complications associated with Juhani’s criminal links take a positively murky turn when a knife throwing assassin attempts to arrange a premature meeting between Henri and his maker. This galling endeavour is defeated only after a fortuitous and spontaneous act by Henri that involves drilling a 25 centimeter rabbit ear into the skull of his would be murderer.
The employees of YouMeFun also make up for an amalgam of the extraordinary. Esa the security in charge is predisposed to an unknow diet that makes him break malodorous wind that has the effect on the nostrils of the unsuspecting, the same impact of inhaling noxious fumes of sulfuric acid in a laboratory. Laura Helanto is not only a expert in the world of finance but is also an excellent artist whose admiration of Helen Frankenthaler, O’ Keefe, Jackson Pollock, Monet and various other Masters adds immense value to YouMeFun in the form of some exquisitely painted murals. Minttu K, the Marketing Manager reeks of gin and tonic as early as 9.00 A.M and possesses a raspy voice that would put even the most obstinate of sandpapers to utter disdain.
If YouMeFun needs to be preserved as a going concern, Henri, Laura, Esa, Minttu, and the rest of the people making up the team, need to act quickly and decisively. Henri, in particular seems to be running out of both time and ideas to keep a bunch of terrifying mobsters at bay. Just when it seems that all hopes and expectations have reached a point of no return, the Science of Mathematics provides the lone source of hope for Henri and the future of YouMeFun. However, for Mathematics to work its miracle, Henri would first need to meet a dangerous individual who alternatively bakes cinnamon buns and breaks necks, both with a carefully cultivated ease…
“The Rabbit Factor”, a where Andrey-Kurkov-meets-Mikhail-Bulgakov work, is easily one of the best fiction novels to have hit the shelves this year. It may also be the arrival of one of the greatest purveyors of its genre!
It would be sorely remiss of any reviewer to not mention the magnificent and magisterial effort of David Hackston in translating this marvelous book from Finnish to English.