Jaakko Kaunismaa is having the worst day of this life. At the beginning of The Man Who Died, by Antti Tuomainen and translated by David Hackston, Jaakko learns that he has been fatally poisoned and that his wife is cheating on him with the delivery boy of their mushroom company. He only has a few weeks to live, according to the doctor, in which to figure out who wants him dead.
In almost any murder investigation, the family and friends of the victim are asked if the deceased had any enemies. As the soon-to-be-deceased, Jaakko is discovering that there are a surprising number of people might want him dead. There’s his wife. There’s his new competitors, a trio of very threatening men who want in on the surprisingly lucrative mushroom business in Hamina, in southeastern Finland. Jaakko can’t go to the police because there’s no proof that his poisoning is intentional or accidental yet. Because he’s not dead, there’s not really a crime for them to investigate. So, in spite of his declining physical condition, Jaakko sets out to solve his own murder.
Because Jaakko is an amateur detective, he blunders through his investigation like a bull in a china store. He makes radical decision about his company. He says provocative things to watch people’s reactions. He asks his employees to spy for him. His actions stir up hornets nests all over the place and no one has a clue what’s going on. Then, the stakes get raised even higher when some of those competitors try to speed up his murder.
The Man Who Died is a blackly comic novel, surprisingly given its premise, and I chalk it up to the fact that most of the characters have no idea what they’re doing. Things go spectacularly and hilariously awry more often than not. Jaakko does eventually find out who poisoned him, but I think this mystery ended up being more about the journey than the destination. It is a story about a man who is murdered, yes, but his murder is a catalyst to rip off his blinders and really examine his complacency. Once those blinders are off, Jaakko gets the chance to go out with a bang.
I strongly recommend this book for readers who like puzzles and off-kilter fiction. I loved this book, so much that I read it all in one sitting.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.