The Healer by Antti Tuomainen is a novel of dystopian, futuristic Nordic noir (available May 14, 2013).
Tapani Lehtinen’s wife, Johanna is missing. She’s a reporter and routinely goes out on assignment for days at a time, but always checks in with her husband, and it’s been twenty-four hours since he’s heard from her. After visiting her editor and expressing his concerns, the editor reluctantly tells him that she’s been working on a story about The Healer, a killer who’s been targeting families of high powered men involved in the seeming destruction of the environment, thus being part of the cause of the deteriorating climate of Helsinki and the surrounding areas. The editor is dubious that something bad has happened to Johanna, but seems to soften a bit when Tapani explains the nature of their relationship.
“Johanna and I always keep in touch with each other,” I explained. It occurred to me that when we repeat things it isn’t always for the purpose of convincing other people. “I don’t mean constantly. But if nothing else we at least send each other a text message or an email every few hours. Even if we don’t really have anything to tell each other. It’s usually just a couple of words. Something funny, or something a little affectionate. It’s a habit with us. The last sentence was purposely emphatic. Lassi listened, his face expressionless.
“Now I haven’t heard from her in twenty-four hours,” I continued, and realized I was directing my words to my own reflection in the window.
So, armed with no information other than the nature of the story Johanna was writing, Tapani heads out in a rain-soaked and violent city, within a world in turmoil, to find his wife.
The metro tunnel was closed from Sornainen to Keilaniemi because of flooding. The train had taken me as far as Kalasatama, where I’d had to wait for the bus for twenty minutes under a sky pouring rain. The burning truck was left behind as I went back to watching the news on the screen attached to the back of the driver’s bulletproof glass compartment. The southern regions of Spain and Italy had officially been left to their own devices. Bangladesh, sinking into the sea, had erupted in a plague that threatened to spread to the rest of Asia. The dispute between India and China over Himalayan water supplies was driving the two countries to war. Mexican drug cartels had responded to the closing of the U.S.-Mexico border with missile strikes on Los Angeles and San Diego.
That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Not a corner of the world hasn’t been affected by the global climate issues and the spread of plague is a constant threat. In Tapani’s world, a world defined by Johanna, who he thought he knew so well, everything is about to come crashing down. As he seeks help in his search, and as he digs deeper into his wife’s past, he’s shocked at what he finds. Johanna may have more to do with the enigmatic killer who calls himself The Healer, and the answer may lie in her past.
As we follow Tapani through dark, rain-swept streets, where predators lurk and thugs abound, the reader is struck with a sense of melancholy that hangs over the city, and in turn, over Tapani, like a thick fog. And more than once Tapani is witness to the victimization of his fellow citizens.
The Healer, while on the surface a mystery, is a subtly written travelogue of a city in dire straits, but the core of the novel is Tapani’s determination to find his wife, a woman he thought he knew but didn’t, not thoroughly. But we can never know someone inside and out. Sometimes we have dark places that don’t bear exploring, and it’s Tapani’s enduring love for Johanna, in spite of her past, that drives this dark and dreamlike narrative.
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