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Dark As My Heart by Antti Tuomainen

Dark As My Heart

by Antti Tuomainen

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Apparently this author has won a lot of awards for writing, but obviously something is missing in the translation. The main character is very likeable, but the plot just doesn't go anywhere. This is a story of a young man whose mother disappeared one night, and he believes a wealthy man is responsible for the murder. So he goes to work for this guy, seduces his daughter, and then finds out it was the man after all that killed his mother. It seems like a predictable storyline, and all his relationships seem to go nowhere fast. ( )
  kerryp | Nov 30, 2017 |
In some ways this plot reminded me of THE TRAP which I read recently, and also one of the themes of Pauline Rowson's Portsmouth series which also deals with a mother who disappears when her son is in his teens.

In the long run, I thought the author was struggling to bring the story of DARK AS MY HEART to a resolution. The central theme is the search for understanding what happened to Aleksi's mother twenty years earlier. Aleksi and the original police investigator are both convinced that the murderer struck again ten years later and so he will strike again on the 20th anniversary of his mother's disappearance.

Aleksi thinks he recognises the voice of millionaire Henrik Saarinen as that of a friend of his mother and becomes convinced that he is the murder. He takes a job as a caretaker on Saarinen's estate so he can keep a close eye on him.

The introduction of other characters: a daughter, a housekeeper, a chauffeur, as well as the detective now semi-retired and dying of cancer, pad the plot out, provide red herrings, and muddy the waters.

The setting has a definite Finnish flavour reinforced by use of a number of Finnish place names. The plot is very noir and for me there were one or two strands that really served no purpose. ( )
  smik | Jun 26, 2016 |
Three years ago I, somewhat surprisingly, fell in love with THE HEALER, Antti Tuomainen’s first novel available to me in translation from the original Finnish. It was surprising because the book is barely crime fiction at all; it’s a kind of dystopian quest but if any element dominates it’s the love story aspect of the novel which normally is about as far from my cup of tea as it’s possible to get. But adore the book I did and so was very pleased to see another novel by Tuomainen make its way to my shores. Perhaps it was the weight of expectation but I did not enjoy DARK AS MY HEART as much as the earlier novel and I’ve put off scribbling down my thoughts because I was trying to work out why.

Objectively it is not a bad book and shares many of the traits of THE HEALER. It is even, in a way, more solidly in the crime genre and yet, perversely, I think this is part of what didn’t work for me.

It is another quest story. In this case we meet Aleksi Kivi as a man in his early 30’s whose mother vanished without trace when he was 13. When police fail to find out what happened to his mother Aleksi takes on the search for answers himself and becomes convinced that a wealthy, well-known business man is responsible for the disappearance. To bring matters to a head Aleksi inveigles himself into the man’s employ with the aim of finally learning his mother’s fate.

What does work well is the depiction of Aleksi and his single-minded dedication to learning what happened. Although at times I thought “that’s a ridiculous thing to do” I never failed to believe that his character would do those things. I hope that makes sense. Sometimes when characters in books do silly things I get cross because I have somehow developed the impression that I know the fictional creation wouldn’t do that thing, whereas that never happened here. I can’t say I liked Aleksi but I was captivated by him and did want to see how his quest for answers would be resolved.

With the possible exception of the detective who has had the most to do with investigating the disappearance, the supporting cast did not ring as true for me. They seemed…unnatural somehow. I kept thinking they were the kind of characters one might put in a crime novel if one had never read a crime novel. That might be too harsh but whatever the reason I did not feel engaged by these characters – the businessman, his daughter and several staff – who seemed not quite to belong.

DARK AS MY HEART is once again short (by modern standards) and beautifully written and translated; Lola Rogers seems keenly attuned to Tuomainen’s almost lyrical style of writing. But I wasn’t sold on the book’s structure. There are flashbacks to key points in the history of the story of Aleksi, his mother and the suspect but these seemed to wrench the flow of the story off its course rather than add the depth and insight I presume was meant.

I didn’t by any means hate DARK AS MY HEART and I would eagerly read more from this author. I suppose the problem lies in the fact that I was looking for a repeat of my first experience reading a book from this author. This is completely unfair of me as I rarely adore multiple books from the same author and I should judge each book on its own merits. But I seem not to have managed that in this instance. Consider my wrist slapped.
  bsquaredinoz | Feb 29, 2016 |
The exploration of consequences is beautifully executed in Antti Tuomainen’s mesmerising DARK AS MY HEART. That he is an award winning author comes as no surprise, but of the five novels to his name in his native Finland, the third “The Healer” and this, his fourth novel, are so far the only ones translated into English. Needless to say THE HEALER is now on the TBR pile.

Aleksi Kivi was thirteen years old when his mother vanished. Now, twenty years on, he’s still haunted by her murder, and his feelings of recognition and utter belief that the millionaire owner of the company his mother worked for is responsible for that death could seem like obsession. That possibility is tempered elegantly by his quiet determination, and his willingness to observe, check and insinuate himself into Saarinen’s life in order to discover the truth.

Working as a live-in caretaker on a remote seaside property belonging to Saarinen that insinuation is planned and precisely executed, getting to know members of Saarinen’s family and staff, in particular, dangerously close to his erratic and disturbed daughter Amanda.

Told in a deceptively simple, understated manner which matches the personality and determination of the central character perfectly, there’s a clarity to the storytelling here that truly is mesmerising. The dialogue is sparse and pitched perfectly, establishing emotion, intent, feelings and motivation without having to resort to long, overblown exposition. That perfect touch is applied to the sense of place as well, creating a remote yet luxurious, underpopulated, beautiful yet sinister environment in which Kivi must try to find the truth, and hence allow himself to move on, and to live.

As close to a single sitting read as can be achieved around here, it’s not until after finishing that I realised that what we have in DARK AS MY HEART is about as perfect a combination of character, place and plot as I’ve read in a long time. Classically understated, in that particularly Scandinavian manner that many readers have come to love, the exploration of the why, and the impact of the act are as important to the author as the identification of who.

http://www.austcrimefiction.org/review/review-dark-my-heart-antti-tuomainen ( )
  austcrimefiction | Nov 9, 2015 |
Dark As My Heart – A Wonderfully Dark & Tragic Story

Dark As My Heart is the latest book from award winning Finnish writer Antti Toumainen in what has been billed as a mixture of Hitchcockian mystery tale and modern Greek tragedy. A very large claim for a writer that is building his career, but one that delivers on what the publishers have proclaimed. This is a dark atmospheric story that is deeply compelling, that draws you in, with surprising twists, sudden violence and an ending you do not see coming.

Twenty years after his mother disappeared, presumed dead, Aleksi Kivi gains employment with Henrik Saarinen, the man he suspects of killing his mother. He has hounded the police of the previous twenty years telling them what he suspected, but felt he was often ignored. So he decided he would get as close as possible to Saarinen so that he could gain the evidence he required.

He was the new caretaker of Kalmela Manor, isolated on the seashore, 94 Kilometres west of Helsinki, just two members of staff, Aleksi and the cook Enni. They both had apartments in a converted barn and worked around the house and estate uninterrupted unless Henrik or his daughter Amanda were at the house.

As Aleksi observes the Saarinen family he gets close to Amanda, which to him is a blessing and a curse as it puts him in a difficult position. At times they both need each other, but there are other times when she is nothing more than a poor little ‘rich girl’. They are also bad for each other as Aleksi discovers but finds her information useful and there are times she amuses him.

Henrik seems to have taken a shine to his new caretaker and enjoys talking to him and probing him, which Aleksi is guarded against. He even gets to act as a chauffeur to Henrik when some tools are required. There are also times when Saarinen seems to talk in riddles to Aleksi but it all soon becomes clear enough to Aleksi, but not before violence has occurred.

With some wonderful twist that are reminiscent of a Greek tragedy we discover the truth about Aleksi’s mother and we also gain some truths we are not expecting. The writing is atmospheric and dark, building up a pace similar to a Hitchcock movie where the reader is totally immersed in the story and then shocked at what happens.

This is an excellent crime story that continues the Nordic Noir takeover of the English reader who will completely enjoy this crime story. An excellent book for all crime fans. ( )
  atticusfinch1048 | Sep 29, 2015 |
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Aleksi lost his mother on a rainy October day when he was thirteen years old. Twenty years later, he is certain that he knows who's responsible. Everything points to millionaire Henrik Saarinen. The police don't agree. He has only one option: to get close to Saarinen and find out the truth about his mother's fate on his own. But as Aleksi soon discovers, delving into Saarinen and his alluring daughter's family secrets is a confusing and dangerous enterprise. Dark As My Heart tells the story of a mother and son and the search for justice. It's a story about the cost of obsessions, the price of vengeance and the power of love. A crime novel written by an acclaimed poet, Dark As My Heart is both a Hitchcockian mystery tale and a modern Greek tragedy.… (more)

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