Blog Tour Book Review

The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen tr. by David Hackston

Just one spreadsheet away from chaos…

What makes life perfect? Insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen knows the answer because he calculates everything down to the very last decimal.

And then, for the first time, Henri is faced with the incalculable. After suddenly losing his job, Henri inherits an adventure park from his brother – its peculiar employees and troubling financial problems included. The worst of the financial issues appear to originate from big loans taken from criminal quarters… and some dangerous men are very keen to get their money back.

But what Henri really can’t compute is love. In the adventure park, Henri crosses paths with Laura, an artist with a chequered past, and a joie de vivre and erratic lifestyle that bewilders him. As the criminals go to extreme lengths to collect their debts and as Henri’s relationship with Laura deepens, he finds himself faced with situations and emotions that simply cannot be pinned down on his spreadsheets…

Warmly funny, rich with quirky characters and absurd situations, The Rabbit Factor is a triumph of a dark thriller, its tension matched only by its ability to make us rejoice in the beauty and random nature of life.

The Rabbit Factor is the first novel of Antti Tuomainen’s that I’ve read, and I have to say that it’s quite unlike anything I’ve come across previously.  Part thriller and part dark comedy, it’s a wholly original novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. 

At the start of the novel we meet Henri, lamenting the loss of his own personal office space as the team moves towards open plan working to encourage interaction and bonding.  It feels a little like The Office as Henri’s manager rolls out all the jargon and buzzwords you can imagine (and then some!) all of which cause Henri to agree to the encouraged resignation rather than the training courses and therapy sessions such as “transcendental meditation” that are being touted as essential.  Antti captures this brilliantly – it’s an idea taken to an extreme, almost absurd level, and yet it works to set the tone of the novel and to give the reader an idea of Henri’s character as someone who is happier with numbers than they are with people and social interaction.

Henri is an interesting character, although one that I wasn’t wholly sure about at first.  An actuary, he believes in calculating everything (and I do mean everything!) to determine the risk and reward of any given situation.  He seems content with his lot in life – living alone with only his cat for company in an apartment that contains the bare necessities, anything else having been dismissed as frivolous expenditure.  To the reader, it’s a minimalist approach taken to the extreme and Henri’s life seems to be one of surviving rather than thriving, although Henri would be disgusted that I’ve described him and his life in such terms. 

When his brother dies unexpectedly and leaves Henri his adventure park, YouMeFun, it pulls Henri out of his comfort zone as he is left to pick up the park, it’s questionable finances, the staff, and his brother’s dealings with a criminal organisation. It’s a lot to take on, and yet Henri – fair play to him – throws himself into it with gusto, taking the same approach to running the adventure park as he does everything else i.e. calculating the best option to achieve the desired result.  It’s here that Henri’s character really comes into its own for me as he acts in ways which are perhaps surprising for a protagonist but completely in keeping with the character.  His predilection for mathematics and his logical approach to everything means that he is willing to deal with the aforementioned criminals if it saves his skin without any moral or ethical qualms, and I like this morally grey aspect to the character that belies the initial persona.  I know EXACTLY how Henri would deal with the trolley dilemma, and that he wouldn’t even need to think about it before answering.

While Henri’s predilection for mathematics and calculating everything has got him so far in life, it doesn’t help him deal with his growing feelings for Laura Helanto – one of the employees at the adventure park.  She makes him feel different in ways that he can’t adequately explain, but despite this, he wants to experience more of it.  While occasionally a little awkward and even cringeworthy at times, it’s actually quite lovely to see a slightly more emotional aspect of this character who relies so much upon logic and to watch him let go and live a little. 

The Rabbit Factor, the first in a planned series, is a wonderful novel about throwing oneself into the opportunities that life – often unexpectedly – presents us with.  There’s a wonderful tone of dark humour throughout as Henri tries to keep one step ahead of the criminals who’ve taken more than a passing interest in him while trying to keep the park running, the staff happy, and while dealing with emotions and feelings that seem rather new to him.  Tense and faintly absurd (in a good way) this is a wonderfully quirky novel that doesn’t take itself too seriously. 

The Rabbit Factor is published by Orenda Books and is available now in hardback, paperback, digital, and audio formats. Huge thanks to the publisher and to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the review copy and the opportunity to take part in the blog tour for the paperback release.

Disclaimer – I received a copy of this novel from the publisher. This has in no way influenced my review.

About the Author

Finnish Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author 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. Palm Beach Finland was an immense success, with Marcel Berlins (The Times) calling Tuomainen ‘the funniest writer in Europe’.

His latest thriller, Little Siberia, was shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger, the Amazon Publishing/Capital Crime Awards, and the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award, and won the Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year.

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