It’s a beautiful day down at the beach; the sun is shining, the wind is practically non-existent, and the temperature is a balmy 25ºC – just how you like it. There are several other people around, but not too many to spoil the perfect day you have been looking forward to all week. You take a sip of the cocktail you bought earlier at the little bar facing the sea, nearly taking your eye out with the little plastic pink flamingo that the barman put in despite your protestations; all part of the experience, you guess. There are flamingo images everywhere: on the beach signs, on the sunbeds, even the toilets are differentiated by a flamingo with a top hat on and one with a tiara on. The only thing missing are actual, real flamingos. All at once the peace is shattered by an explosion behind the dunes. you spill your cocktail, sending the little flamingo flying, where it lands beak first in the sand. As you wonder what the hell has happened, and as the other people all cry out in alarm, a piece of burning paper lands on top of you. Panicking you swat it away, throwing the rest of your cocktail onto it to douse the flames (which are extinguished with a weak fizzle; you suspected there was little actual alcohol in there). Once the flames are out you cautiously pick it up and realise that there is writing on it, untouched by the flames. You haven’t got your glasses on – they flew off with the flamingo – but as you squint you realise that in your hands you hold….a blurb!
“Jan Nyman, the ace detective of the covert operations unit of the National Central Police, is sent to a sleepy seaside town to investigate a mysterious death. Nyman arrives in the town dominated by a bizarre holiday village – the ‘hottest beach in Finland’. The suspect: Olivia Koski, who has only recently returned to her old hometown. The mission: find out what happened, by any means necessary.
With a nod to Fargo, and dark noir, Palm Beach, Finland is both a page-turning thriller and a black comedy about lust for money, fleeing dreams and people struggling at turning points in their lives – chasing their fantasies regardless of reason.”
Think of a beach; the bestest, cleanest, sexiest beach you can. What do you come up with? Most likely it’ll be something along these lines:
Or maybe it’s something like this?
Just look at those calm, glass-clear seas. The unspoiled sandy beaches. You can practically eat you dinner off them (as long as that dinner was sandwiches. Ha, geddit? sandwiches. Sand…wich…. oh, I give up!)
Anyhoo, even the spoilt sandy beaches can look pretty lush:
Then there are the utterly idyllic beaches that we all yearn to visit and drink cocktails upon whilst half expecting a dinosaur to lumber past:
If beaches are your cup of lapsang souchong, I imagine those photos above will have you rushing to your local travel agency to book your next holiday, no? Oh, and don’t forget to take out added insurance against being eaten by dinosaurs. It is available, but they tend to keep it quiet; don’t pay too much mind, but you’ll thank me later as you can never be too careful.
But what if you don’t like the sun? The heat and dryness that many of these places endure? The endless sand in your underpants and other delicate places? Well, maybe you should try Finland?
What? *screeching tyre noise* Stop the blog! Where? Finland? Do they even have beaches? Well yes, yes they do. They may not be quite what you expect. I mean, where else would you expect to see Moose sharing the water with you, eh?
Most of you probably think of Finnish beaches and bathing as being more like this:
Or like this:
Finland borders the Baltic Sea; a narrow, semi-enclosed body of water, with a few gaps out to the North Sea near Denmark where the real sea can get in and boast that it has tides, large deep trenches and generally get all hoity-toity over the smaller seas. The Baltic Sea has very little in the way of tides. You won’t get a lot of surfing done in the Baltic Sea, unless it’s wind surfing. That’s not to say that Finland doesn’t have beautiful beaches and stretches of coastline, not at all, but it isn’t the first place that springs to mind when you think of the world’s beaches and beach resorts.
Well, in Antti Tuomainen’s ‘Palm Beach Finland’ (or PBF as it shall here on in be called), one man is looking to change all of that and put Finland firmly on the World Map of beach resorts.
But who is this man of such unique vision? This Elon Musk of the beach resort world? The man who wants to turn Palm Beach Finland into the next St Tropez?
His name is Jorma Leivo. Jorma is a man driven to one purpose; to create one of the finest beach resorts, not just in Finland, but in the world!
Hey, don’t take my word for it; here is the man himself when describing the fledgling resort to a new guest:
“ ‘The beach is up there with the best,’ said Leivo. ‘Whatever they’ve got in St Tropez, we’ve got too, only better: canoes, pedalos, rowing boats, surfboards, Optimist dinghies, deckchairs – brand-new deckchairs; a hundred and twenty of them. You’d better reserve one before they’re all gone. Okay, it looks like there’s only one in use right now, but it really depends on the day. Volleyball, tennis, mini golf. Three holes, so Tiger Woods would approve. Dancing classes – our instructor’s been to Mexico, so we’re talking world-class salsa. There’s the restaurant offering à la carte and all kinds of delicacies, plus seafood, pizzas and craft beers you can’t even get in Germany. Happy people. It’s a top-notch beach experience for a five-star clientele. The sky’s the limit round here. If everything goes to plan, next summer we’ll be opening a casino, a Moulin Rouge-type place, tits and windmills – tasteful, classy…”
Tits and windmills? I mean, what’s not to like about that idea, huh? 😉
But I digress *cough*
Jorma can already see the slogans that will bring the people flooding into PBF:
“…I’ve been thinking of different marketing slogans we could use: Frugal families save on sunscreen. Forget the language barrier once and for all. Sun and sand only a six-minute flight away . If you imagine that a jet plane travels at eight hundred and fifty kilometres an hour, then the journey from Helsinki is about six minutes. Of course, disembarking is a bit of challenge, but we’re going to fix that soon. And my favourite for our transatlantic clientele: Florida without the face-eating junkies. I saw that on TV. It’s a bit edgy, I know, and maybe it’s not appropriate at the moment, what with (REDACTED due to unspecified shenanigans: TBBB) , but for the future, once we get to the bottom of the case. Then there are slogans for the Thai market: Diarrhoea only from your own cuisine. And for our European customers: Finally – a beach that’s one hundred percent sunburn-free. And how about: Leave your melanoma at home. These still need a bit of tweaking, I know, but as you can see we’re holding all the cards here. I wouldn’t have put money into this place unless I knew it was the best business venture in the world.”
Annti’s wonderful sense of crazy humour comes across loud and clear during these little moments, and PBF is littered with them.
For Jorma, however, there is one thing, and one person, standing in the way of his vision and turning those slogans into reality; PBF employee, and recent returnee to her family home, Olivia Koski. Olivia lives in a house that has been in her family for generations and she is not about to give it up for Jorma to flatten and expand his empire across the dunes. To Jorma this is not acceptable and he resolves to do something about it, and not necessarily legally. Trouble is, Jorma isn’t a particularly nasty guy. In fact, he’s one of my favourite characters in PBF; he just wants PBF to be the best it can be. He tries to reason with Olivia, but she remains resolute in her refusal to sell up. Jorma needs another plan…
Enter our two numbskulls, lifelong friends Chico and Robin. Employees of PBF – lifeguard and chef respectively – they are dispatched by Jorma to encourage Olivia to sell/vacate/give her house over to him by any means necessary; a little intimidation here, a smidgen of strong arm tactics there, or, as Robin thinks, just to piss through her letterbox! (Robin is a simple, pleasant enough soul, but his thought processes are pretty slow. During one encounter, Antti describes them as, “the little boats inside Robin’s head […] still slowly puttering towards the harbour.” Love it.)
Unfortunately for our would be enforcers they encounter somebody already in the house, someone that they assume to be Olivia who has returned from work early, leading to unspecified shenanigans and things get ever so slightly out of hand….
Hang about, that’s twice you’ve mention “unspecified shenanigans“. I feel an explanation is in order here!
Ok, let me be clear here; it is I who is unspecifying the shenanigans because that is all I am going to say about the story here. If all of that above isn’t enough to encourage you to buy this book, or at the very least to pique – and I do love a good piquing, me – your interest then you need to sit back and pop your feet up above your head, as clearly there isn’t enough blood getting to your eyes and piquing centres. *Boom! Drops mic*
Um, actually I’ll just pick that mic up again as it’s a friend’s and I don’t want to damage it. He claims it was once used by Marc Bolan, you know. I think it was more likely to have been used by Danny Bolan, the guy who runs the bric-a-brac stall in the high street, but who am I to argue?
Where was I?
Oh yes: Once again PBF is a book best experienced as blind as possible. It isn’t a story full of twists and turns, or huge surprises that will make you go “whaaaaaaaa….?”, but it is a story full of great characters and characterisation, bizarre wonderfully warped situations, superb and very funny dialogue, and is just pure fun from start to finish. In fact, this book should have been called “Palm Beach Funland”.
Do you see? Did you see what I did there? Did you? Instead of Finland I wrote…Oh, you did see it? Ok, ok, no need to be rude about it, sheesh. *mutters* *rolls eyes emoji*
Ok, so who else do we have in this here story then?
Well, after the unspecified shenanigans mentioned above, enter our hero, one Jan Kaunisto, a maths teacher who is currently in-between jobs and is looking for a bit of piece and quiet, whilst learning to windsurf, in Palm Beach Funla…sorry…Finland.
Haha, I fooled you there and you didn’t even know it. No, no you didn’t know and don’t even try to pretend that you weren’t fooled. You see, Jan Kaunisto is actually none other than …*drum roll*… undercover detective Jan Nyman, sent to PBF to investigate the unspecified shenanigans mentioned above. Gasp….shockage….much mystification ensuing…
But hold on you beardy berk; you said there were no twists and surprises in this book, and, to be fair, we have no idea what you’re on about anyway as we have yet to read the book. Well, yes yes, but despite that I have fooled you once again, dear – and very patient – Beardy Blog Fan, for this isn’t a twist at all! It’s set out quite clearly from the blurb above and from the start of the book. I was just having a bit of fin. Fun, I meant fun.
I have to say though that changing just one of your names comes across a tad lazy and reeks of poor undercoverishness. What would I know anyway? The only cover I’ve been under is my duvet cover, and that reeks of…. ahem, sorry, I’m digressing. Moving on…
After the unspecified shenanigans mentioned above, another character enters our story to throw a spanner in the works; possibly with great force and towards someone’s head. For, you see, Holma, for it is he, has had some very bad news. Holma is a hitman. He’s a thoroughly unpleasant person. When we first meet him, and when he receives his very bad news, he is dangling some poor unfortunate from a balcony several, very likely fatal, floors up. The bad news received is related to his brother, Antero, and the unspecified shenanigans mentioned above.
Antero is described thus:
“Antero, the black sheep of the family. Everything Antero touched ended in disaster. If Antero had tried to rob a local supermarket, he’d have shown the cashier his loyalty card in the process.“
That last sentence is priceless, well it cracked me up, and is an excellent example of the style of humour throughout PBF.
Amongst Antero’s other heinous crimes are:
“Attempted shoplifting: an eiderdown jacket stuffed down the front of his jogging bottoms.
Minor narcotics misdemeanour: attempting to sell low-grade marijuana to two undercover narcotics investigators having lunch.
Selling stolen goods after a decidedly one-sided robbery: listing three hundred hammers on eBay, each item individually but all with the same user name.
Attempted robbery: threatening a taxi driver with an ice-hockey stick, seizing his bag of money then hailing the same taxi as a getaway vehicle thirty seconds later.“
As you can see, he would make Mister Bean look like a master criminal.
There has been much mentioned in the promotional material and general twittery that PBF has a generous nod to the Coen Brothers’ classic film Fargo. This is not a lazy comparison; there is much of the Coens in Antti’s writing, both here and in his previous novel, “The Man Who Died”, which, btw, you should also totes check out. Seriously, it is superb. As Fargo is one of my all-time favourite films, I consider this to be no bad thing at all. It smacks of their crazier films – Burn After Reading also springs to mind – but please do not mistake this as some rip off copy; it most certainly isn’t. The story is nothing like Fargo for starters and Antti’s own voice comes through loud and clear: his characters sparkle; his dialogue is natural and very, very funny, but believable when it needs to be; the situations are crazy and off the wall, but you really do forget this and I was totally drawn in to the lives of these people and their world. With the exception of Holma, you even sympathise with the so-called bad guys.
Speaking Holma, his arc is the only one that I felt disappointed by. I felt that Antti could have done a lot more with him, and his denouement, when it came, was a little unsatisfying. He was a very good character, but I felt a little short changed. But this is nitpicking, as for 99.999% of the rest of the book, it’s an absolute gem.
Right, I may have said a bit more about the story there than I was originally going to, but I still didn’t specifically mention the unspecified shenanigans alluded to above. Good job I din’t damage that mic earlier.
Palm Beach Funland, dammit, Palm…Beach…Finland is a raucous, wonderful, hilarious and just brilliant slice of Finnish crime writing. Of course, it’s a brilliant piece of writing full stop, but the setting and Finnish attitudes, and coming from a Finn himself, definitely lift this above the rest.
On that note a round of applause must be given to the translator, David Hackston. Without David this book would just be another book full of words with all their vowels strung together and odd little accents over them. I thought that Icelandic was hard to pronounce, but it’s a doddle compared to some of the Finnish words 😉 So thank you David, you have helped to make the literary world a happier, funnier and better place.
Palm Beach Finland is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. I will stake my beard on it*. At times you will even issue forth an involuntary “HA!”, so be warned if you are reading this in public. Like wot I did. I did get funny looks.
Antti has crafted a wonderfully funny, dark, clever, but also warm tale of unspecified shenanigans mentioned above and the fallout thereof. I dare you to read a better Finnish beach based book this year, or any other year, until the end of time. Plus, if this isn’t made into a movie then there really is no justice in the world. It’s truly cinematic in its scope and writing, but it never loses its small town feel. You can probably tell that I loved it, and I know that you will too. So pop to your local travel agent now and book your holiday to “The Hottest Beach In Finland” today – no need for sunscreen, but an extra pair of undergarments is mandatory 🙂
*disclaimer: not necessarily all of my beard. Maybe just a few hairs merely because there will be one or two miserable sods who can’t see the funny. I do have a blog to run you know. Who will want to read ‘The Beardless Book Blogger’? Exactly. *rests case emoji*
Palm Beach Finland is out NOW and you can choose to buy it through these links, or wherever else sells books, obvs.
Finnish Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary
debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011, Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. Two years later, in 2013, the Finnish press crowned Tuomainen the ‘King of
Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen was one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his poignant, dark and hilarious The Man Who Died became an international bestseller, shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards.
As ever, my thanks to Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books and to Anne Cater of Random Things Through My Letter Box for having me on this tour and for my copy of PBF. It goes without saying that this review is totally my own and if it was shit I would’ve declined. Luckily for everyone it wasn’t. Phew, as that would’ve been totes awks.
Hey, if you’re a regular visitor to my blog for blog tours then you know my rules: Check out the other brilliant bloggers on the tour. I know I’m at the end, but there’s nothing to stop you popping back and checking them out anyway. It’s a kind of Beardy Blog rule 😉 Enjoy!