A man with dark thoughts on his mind is racing along the remote snowy roads of Hurmevaara in Finland, when there is flash in the sky and something crashes into the car. That something turns about to be a highly valuable meteorite. Said to be worth 1 million euros, it immediately captures the interest of the locals as well as some Russian visitors. To protect it from greedy hands, the meteorite is temporarily placed in a neighbourhood museum, to be watched by Joel Huhta, the local pastor. But Joel has a lot more on his mind than simply protecting the meteorite from thieves. His wife has just revealed that she is pregnant, but Joel has strong reason to think the baby isn’t his. At the same time as Joel tries to fend off repeated attempts to steal the meteorite, he must also try to find out who the father of the baby really is. And his two problems seem to be somehow connected.
Setting and lead character
The town of Hurmevaara is fictional, but the author creates a very believable portrait of a small community set in a remote part of northern Finland near the Russian border. We learn that there is a lot of snow and that the town has a church, a War museum and a large, icy lake. A Russian visitor tellingly remarks ” This… this place is like Siberia.”, which also explains the title of the novel. Hurmevaara has only 1000 inhabitant and they have to help and rely on each other, but that also means that everyone knows everyone else’s business – for good and for bad.
Joel, the priest and protagonist, is more of a philosopher than a religious man. He muses about his marriage, about his friends, about the meteorite and about the stories he is told by his parishioners. He appears to be a rather laid-back man, but he has a secret weapon. He once served in Afghanistan and his experiences from there make him able to act quickly and firmly when needed. Joel doesn´t want to be violent, but somehow he slips into the one violent and crazy event after another.
Antti Tuomainen started his writing career in a almost poetic way and wrote some rather dark crime fiction novels, before he decided to use the element of humour more intentionally in his stories. Today his books have been translated into many languages and he is often called the “King of Helsinki Noir”. He has developed a quite unique way of using crime fiction to say something important about human beings – and doing it in a remarkably funny way. His later novels are strange but entertaining mixes of tragedy and comedy.
Little Siberia has a fantastic opening and a plot full of absurd events and coincidences. A suspenseful and action-filled story, but at the same time a black comedy about faith, doubt, forgiveness, life and death.