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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

    

Palm Beach, Finland

by
Antti Tuomainen


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Palm Beach, Finland



Title: Palm Beach, Finland
Author: Antti Tuomainen
Genre: Novel
Written: 2017 (Eng. 2018)
Length: 292 pages
Original in: Finnish
Availability: Palm Beach, Finland - US
Palm Beach, Finland - UK
Palm Beach, Finland - Canada
Palm Beach, Finland - Deutschland
  • Finnish title: Palm Beach Finland
  • Translated by David Hackston

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Our Assessment:

B+ : good fun; good mix of characters, and just-absurd-enough action

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Helsingin Sanomat . 8/10/2017 Pertti Avola
Publishers Weekly . 1/2/2019 .


  From the Reviews:
  • "Colorful characters and awkward situations, as when Nyman becomes a person of interest to the locals, enhance the zany plot. Tim Dorsey fans will have fun." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       'Palm Beach Finland' is the rather far-fetched brainchild of Jorma Leivo: sweating it out while on vacation in Phuket he was hit by what he saw as inspiration:

what if you could have all this, palms and everything, but without the unpleasant parts ? Without this heat, or one, which he found utterly unbearable. Without having to change your clothes three times a day, without roasting your skin, without suntan lotion that stings your eyes.
       Having come into a bit of money, he spent practically all of it putting his plan into action, buying the only holiday resort he could find for sale in his native Finland. He plunged right in, transforming this seaside resort into a would-be tropical playground -- albeit without the tropical temperatures, or quite as much sun. At least the name is certainly catchy -- and more evocative than the previous one ('Martti's Motel') -- as is the slogan: "It's the hottest beach in Finland".
       Jorma even already has expansion plans, his eye specifically on the plot of land occupied by one Olivia Koski, who recently inherited and moved into the old family home. It's this that sets the action in motion. He wants to scare or intimidate Olivia into selling, and thinks the best way of doing that is to send a message. He hires Chico and Robin -- more or less local beach bums -- to help try to drive her out by doing: "Little things, annoying things", he suggests, like peeing in her mailbox.
       There's a reason Chico and Robin have not had great success in life. Happy-go-lucky, they're also rather hapless. Their first attempt has them throw some rocks, smashing a window ... and, well, when all is said and done, there's a dead body on the floor.
       Two weeks later, Jan Nyman's boss, Muurla, calls him into his office. Nyman is: "the best detective in the Undercover Unit" of the National Bureau of Investigation, and his boss has a case for him. As well as lots of advice about handling divorce, as Nyman and his wife have recently split up.
       Muurla sums up:
Here's the short version: a body turns up in a small town. Local investigation, no result. Regional investigation team in and out, no results. The case is a mystery.
       The thing is, the: "modus operandi suggests a professional hit". It's apparently hard to kill someone in exactly this way -- and it requires two people. And there's the fact that nothing seems to be missing -- so it wasn't a robbery -- and the identity of dead person has proven difficult to ascertain. A lot of questions remain.
       So Nyman is being sent in, undercover. His cover-name is Jan Kaunisto, and he's to pretend to be a maths teacher on summer holiday -- perhaps not the ideal choice, given Nyman's general innumeracy.
       In his undercover role, Nyman rents a chalet at Palm Beach Finland -- getting Jorma's spiel along with it:
Think of it as a direct flight to Miami, a piece of bona fide Florida. Five-star views. International quality, but for the discerning Finnish taste.
       Nyman starts sniffing around -- which also means approaching Olivia, in whose house the murder took place, after all. This complicates matters: while Olivia couldn't have been directly responsible for the crime, the possibility that she is somehow involved remains -- while Nyman's interest is soon also more personal.
       When the body is identified yet another person gets involved, a truly cold-hearted killer who had a connection to the victim and would like to see to his own kind of justice in this case. So this Holma also shows up at Palm Beach Finland, and settles in in the chalet next to Nyman -- under an assumed name, too.
       One thing common to all the locals is that they're short of cash -- Chico and Robin terminally so, while Olivia has enough to get by but not nearly enough to undertake the costly renovations that are vital to making her home habitable (like being able to flush the toilets). Even Jorma has just enough to make a lowball offer for Olivia's property, and could desperately use more funds. Realizing this, Holma -- in the various guises he introduces himself in -- dangles considerable amounts of cash in front of the various parties, if they can help him get to the bottom of the murder. In Olivia's case, he even hands a lot over -- though he's very certain that he will get it back, with interest, when he's done.
       Jorma decides to keep the pressure on Olivia -- he really wants her land -- and foolishly entrusts Chico and Robin with trying to unsettle her again; they don't leave a corpse in the wake of it this time, but still make a mess of things. Soon outsider Jan's sniffing around Olivia and her property comes to the attention of the local police too -- with Jan not wanting to blow his cover. But even if Jan can fool the local police, Olivia grows increasingly suspicious of him .....
       It all makes for a nicely absurd sort of thriller, with a few more humorous dark twists. With Holma offering the promise of considerable rewards, directly and indirectly, to, among others, several of those who were actually involved, the situation quickly tangles itself into quite the messy knot -- with at least one of the characters finding themselves literally neck-deep in it, for a while ..... But Tuomainen has everything come to a nice resolution, everyone more or less getting their just deserts -- not least courtesy of yet another unexpected encounter Robin stumbles into, with yet again ... greater-than-intended results.
       Some of the odds and ends might be a bit too convenient, and it's unclear why Olivia doesn't mention the one thing that went missing from her home the night the body was found there to anyone except, eventually, Nyman -- and occasionally the humor is a bit too forced (notably regarding the consequences of Olivia's water-pipe problems). Otherwise, however, Palm Beach, Finland is entirely successful as a comic crime novel -- a difficult combination to pull off this successfully. Tuomainen sets these different characters nicely against each other -- no one ever entirely fooled (at least not for long) as mutual suspicion reigns, even where the characters are drawn to each other (such as in the case of Olivia and Nyman). Cleverly, Tuomainen has self-interest, ruthless or otherwise, only get the characters so far, and the appropriate couples ultimately realize that and are honest with one another (Olivia and Nyma; in their different way, Chico and Robin) -- while the one who acts completely on his own ... does not find a happy ending.
       Filling out the cast with some nice incidental characters and having good fun with the local (drab) color and un-Floridian cold -- and Jorma's complete conviction about the brilliance of his resort-concept, despite all the evidence to the contrary -- Tuomainen presents a very enjoyable beach read, a thriller that doesn't take itself too seriously and offers a nice dark touch that's in fact only an appealingly shimmering veneer to a novel that is actually hearteningly cheerful, through and through.

- M.A.Orthofer, 21 February 2019

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Links:

Palm Beach, Finland: Reviews: Antti Tuomainen: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Finnish author Antti Tuomainen was born in 1971.

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© 2019 the complete review

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