I’m having a blast working my way through my backlog of Nordic fiction for Annabel’s #NORDICFinds with today bringing us to the biggest blast of them all. I read Tuomainen’s Little Siberia, which has won the 2020 Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Fiction, two years ago. As it was too brutal for me, despite its humour, I was going to pass on The Rabbit Factor. Glowing reviews from both Annabel and Marina Sofia convinced me not to. Well, these second helpings were, so to speak, so tasty, I now want thirds!

Translated from Finnish by David Hackston

Before I say more, it’s important to note the difference between an amusement park and an adventure park. According to protagonist Henri Koskinen: “amusement parks have rollercoasters and carousels, machines that you sit in and let them toss you around. An adventure park, on the other hand, is a place where people have to move by themselves. They climb and run, jump and slide. There are climbing walls, ropes, slides, labyrinths …”.

Henri Koskinen is an actuary, a risk assessor, a numbers man, who cannot function properly in the chaos of an open plan office. Nor can he abide notions of teamwork, openness, and knowledge sharing advocated by the new department manager. It slows him down. This leads to a parting of ways. Shortly thereafter, he inherits his brother’s adventure park. 3 weeks later he batters a would-be assassin to death with the ear of a giant, plastic rabbit. (That’s not a spoiler, it’s in the prologue.)

The story of how this highly improbable occurrence came to be and its aftermath is such an amusement ride for the reader, an adventure for Henri. It involves loan sharks, money laundering and dangerous criminals. Mister Big may like to bake gigantic cinnamon buns but he also employs inventive, but grisly execution methods (which thankfully are not portrayed graphically). In this arena Henri’s mathematical brain manages to hold its own, outwitting his adversaries with numbers and schemes for making more money. He, also, surprises himself, with his man-management skills; the team that his brother had put together is – what can I say – one of a kind. Vesla is on permanent sick leave; the maintenance man sells tickets, the day manager has a certain Henri-ne-sait-quoi and artistic ambitions, the marketing manager has a drink problem. Yet somehow Henri brings out the best in all of them, even if he cynically resorts to modern corporate fads to buy himself some time.

Or is the team bringing out the best in him? Because this is Henri’s initiation – or should that be baptism of fire – into the benefits of teamwork. One which proves that the whole is worth more that the sum of its parts. Such a hard concept for a mathematician to get his head around. Yet, while Henri is – in secret, he thinks – battling the underworld and deflecting the police who are searching for a missing gangster, one member of the team has his number, and another his back.

Which is just as well as it turns out …

Henri’s adventure doesn’t stop with his skirmishes with the criminal elements. He has another road to travel, one that proves to be much more disconcerting. For Laura, the would-be-artist is about to prove that Henri has no place sequestering himself behind a desk with a calculator and balance sheet. There’s this thing called love, and even the best mathematician in the world cannot interpret the probability calculus associated with that.

I read The Rabbit Factor for NORDICFinds (Finland Week). Though it’s more than a find. The intelligent mix of black comedy and lighthearted (though all too true) observation of personal and professional development make it a crime novel to treasure.