Hell In Helsinki   Leave a comment


I learned about The Healer from a link sent by a friend featuring book doppelgangers. Antti Tuomainen’s novel was identified as the literary twin to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. That’s all I needed to know – or so I thought. Unfortunately, it’s more a fraternal connection than identical.

Yes, it’s set in Scandinavia but from there the similarities are tenuous at best. The Healer is compact but can’t quite settle on a specific genre. It’s crime fiction, without the thrill of trying to determine whodunit before it’s spelled out. It’s an apocalyptic tale, without an explanation of what actually took place – except for references to global warming. It’s a love story, told only from Tapani the narrator’s perspective, which is unreliable.

Tapani recounts his frantic search for his missing wife, Johanna, a journalist working on a story about a series of murders. The couple has never gone more than a few hours without communicating with one another. Her editor is disinterested, the police are over-worked, and friends are not forthcoming. Tapani is on his own left to retrace his wife’s steps. Along the way he is befriended by a helpful yet mysterious cab driver. And, Tapani uncovers a few secrets from Johanna’s past, which make him question how well he truly knows her.

Tuomaninen’s description of Helsinki is stark; it’s a city of constant rain, poverty and crowds. None of which, like Tapani’s search for Johanna, is very engaging. Nonetheless, I found myself thinking about the ending long after finishing this terse novel.

The Healer
Three Bookmarks
Henry Holt and Co., 2010
211 pages

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