The Healer: A Novel

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Overview

One man’s search for his missing wife in a dystopian futuristic Helsinki that is struggling with ruthless climate change

It’s two days before Christmas and Helsinki is battling a ruthless climate catastrophe: subway tunnels are flooded; abandoned vehicles are left burning in the streets; the authorities have issued warnings about malaria, tuberculosis, Ebola, and the plague. People are fleeing to the far north of Finland and Norway where conditions are still tolerable. Social ...

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Overview

One man’s search for his missing wife in a dystopian futuristic Helsinki that is struggling with ruthless climate change

It’s two days before Christmas and Helsinki is battling a ruthless climate catastrophe: subway tunnels are flooded; abandoned vehicles are left burning in the streets; the authorities have issued warnings about malaria, tuberculosis, Ebola, and the plague. People are fleeing to the far north of Finland and Norway where conditions are still tolerable. Social order is crumbling and private security firms have undermined the police force. Tapani Lehtinen, a struggling poet, is among the few still able and willing to live in the city.

When Tapani’s beloved wife, Johanna, a newspaper journalist, goes missing, he embarks on a frantic hunt for her. Johanna’s disappearance seems to be connected to a story she was researching about a politically motivated serial killer known as “The Healer.” Desperate to find Johanna, Tapani’s search leads him to uncover secrets from her past. Secrets that connect her to the very murders she was investigating...

The Healer is set in desperate times, forcing Tapani to take desperate measures in order to find his true love. Written in an engrossingly dense but minimal language, The Healer is a story of survival, loyalty, and determination. Even when the world is coming to an end, love and hope endure.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Winner of the Clue Award for the best Finnish crime novel of 2011, Tuomainen’s third book evocatively explores a near-future Helsinki in which private security firms hire murderous thugs to patrol the desolate city. Floods, fires, and disease are also rampant. Amid this turmoil, poet Tapani Lehtinen searches for his wife, Johanna, a journalist who disappeared while covering the story of a serial killer called “the Healer.” The Healer targets those he blames for the global warming that led to society’s collapse—business executives, politicians, and their families. With a little help from an honest cop and a shadowy cab driver, Tapani digs into his wife’s secret past to find her. Tuomainen (My Brother’s Keeper) writes beautifully, but at times the text reads like a screed about greed and environmental destruction. But Tapani’s progression from a dreamy poet content with staying at home to a man of action elevates this bleak tale and brings a glimmer of hope to rain-soaked Helsinki. (May)
Library Journal
In a near-future Helsinki, under assault from rising water levels owing to climate change, Johanna, the reporter wife of poet Tapani Lehtinen, disappears. As he searches for her, Tapani finds out that Johanna was investigating a series of murders of corporate executives and their families by a killer known as the Healer. He finds sympathy from the police inspector assigned the case, but with the city’s infrastructure crumbling and refugees from the south overwhelming Helsinki, there is little the police can do to help. While Tapani digs into his wife’s past and the anticorporate motives of the killer, he uncovers secrets, both personal and political.

Verdict Although set in the future, the author’s third novel (which won the Clue Award for Best Finnish Crime Novel 2011) is more similar in tone to Ben Winters’s Edgar Award?winning The Last Policeman and should appeal to readers who enjoyed that combination of imminent apocalypse and its effects on society with one man’s quest to solve a mystery on a smaller, human scale. [Previewed in Kristi Chadwick’s Genre Spotlight mystery feature, “Following the Digital Clues,” LJ 4/15/13.—Ed.]—Dan Forrest, Western Kentucky Univ. Libs., Bowling Green
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Reviews
In Tuomainen's first appearance in English translation, a long-unpublished poet takes to the streets of a grimly dystopian Helsinki in search of his vanished wife. It's not as if Tapani Lehtinen doesn't already have enough sorrow to weigh him down. A series of weather-related disasters from Bangladesh to the Amazon have created 800 million climate refugees. In relatively sedate Finland, months of rain have interrupted power, ruined homes and canceled any promise of normal social life, as everyone who can move even further north rushes to do so. In the depths of this man-made hell, Johanna Lehtinen goes missing. It's not unusual for newspaper reporters to take off in search of a story without calling in, says Lassi Uutela, her editor, though he can't remember Johanna's ever doing it before. The story Johanna has been working on is chilling: a series of slaughters of prominent business leaders and their families. The person who's claimed responsibility in a series of emails to Johanna, calling himself the Healer, insists that he's only trying to punish the kinds of people who recklessly accelerated climate change. Chief Inspector Harri Jaatinen, of Helsinki's violent crimes unit, has no idea what's happened to Johanna. Neither does her old friend Elina Kallio or her husband, Ahti, a lawyer who's about to leave town with her since they can no longer find work. And the one lead the police have--the discovery of former medical student Pasi Tarkiainen's DNA at several of the crime scenes--is seriously compromised by the news that Tarkiainen died five years ago. Tapani's search, which will lead him through an appalling series of cityscapes to some shattering discoveries about the wife he thought he knew so well, is the stuff of authentic nightmares.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805095548
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/14/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 947,642
  • Product dimensions: 5.92 (w) x 8.34 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Antti Tuomainen (b. 1971) was an award-winning copywriter in the advertising industry before he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed Veljeni vartija (My Brother's Keeper) was published two years later. In 2011 Tuomainen's third novel, Parantaja (The Healer), was awarded the Clue Award for Best Finnish Crime Novel 2011 and is being translated into twenty-three languages. He lives in Helsinki, Finland.

 

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Read an Excerpt

1

Which was worse—complete certainty that the worst had happened, or this fear, building up moment by moment? Sudden collapse, or slow, crumbling disintegration?

I lurched with the force of a swerve that shook me out of my wandering thoughts, and looked up.

Yellow-black flames from a wrecked truck lashed the pillar of the pedestrian bridge at the Sörnäinen shore road. The truck looked broken in the middle, embracing the pillar like a pleading lover. Not one of the passing cars slowed down, let alone stopped. They moved to the outside lane as they flew by, passing the burning wreck at the greatest possible distance.

So did the bus I was sitting in.

I opened my rain-soaked parka, found a packet of tissues in the inside pocket, pulled one loose with numb fingers, and dried my face and hair with it. The tissue was drenched through in a moment. I squeezed it into a ball and shoved it into my pocket. I shook drops of water from the hem of my jacket into the space between my knees and the wall, then took my phone out of the pocket of my jeans. I tried to call Johanna again.

The number was still unavailable.

The metro tunnel was closed from Sörnäinen 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. The forest fires in the Amazon had not been extinguished even by blasting new river channels to surround the fires.

Ongoing wars or armed conflicts in the European Union: thirteen, mostly in border areas.

Estimated number of climate refugees planet-wide: 650–800 million people.

Pandemic warnings: H3N3, malaria, tuberculosis, Ebola, plague.

Light piece at the end: the recently chosen Miss Finland believed that everything would be much better in the spring.

I turned my gaze back to the rain that had been falling for months, a continuous flow of water that had started in September and paused only momentarily since. At least five seaside neighborhoods—Jätkäsaari, Kalasatama, Ruoholahti, Herttoniemenranta, and Marjaniemi—had been continuously flooded, and many residents had finally given up and abandoned their homes.

Their apartments didn’t stay empty for long. Even damp, moldy, and partially underwater, they were good enough for the hundreds of thousands of refugees arriving in the country. In the evenings large, bright cooking fires and campfires shone from flooded neighborhoods without power.

I got off the bus at the railway station. It would have been quicker to walk through Kaisaniemi Park, but I decided to go around it, along Kaivokatu. There weren’t enough police to monitor both the streets and the parks. Walking through the masses of people around the railway station was something always to be avoided. Panicked people were leaving the city and filling jam-packed trains headed north, with all their possessions in their backpacks and suitcases.

Motionless forms lay curled up in sleeping bags under plastic shelters in front of the station. It was impossible to tell whether they were on their way somewhere or simply lived there. The dazzling glow of tall floodlights mixed at eye level with the shimmer of exhaust fumes, the streetlights, and the garish red, blue, and green of lighted advertisements.

The half-burned central post office stood across from the station, a gray-black skeleton. As I passed it, I tried to call Johanna again.

I reached the Sanomatalo building, stood in line for fifteen minutes waiting to go through security, took off my coat, shoes, and belt, put them back on, and walked to the reception desk.

I asked the receptionist to ring Johanna’s boss, who for some reason wasn’t answering my calls. I had met him a few times, and my guess was that if the call came from within the building he would answer, and when he learned who it was, he’d let me tell him why I had come.

The receptionist was an icy-eyed woman in her thirties who, judging by her short hair and controlled gestures, was a former soldier who now guarded the physical integrity of the country’s last newspaper, her gun still at her side.

She looked me in the eye as she spoke into the air.

“A man named Tapani Lehtinen . . . I checked his ID. . . . Yes . . . One moment.”

She nodded to me, the movement of her head like the blow of an ax.

“What is your business?”

“I’m unable to reach my wife, Johanna Lehtinen.”

Copyright © 2013 by Antti Tuomainen

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  • Posted May 14, 2013

    Ever since the massive success of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Tri

    Ever since the massive success of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, translated to English from its original Swedish, there has been an increase in translated novels to the American marketplace. And while some of these foreign authors have really resonated with the American public, think Larsson and Jo Nesbo, others seem to have been lost in translation. 
    In the Healer, a novel by Finnish author Antti Tuomaninen, poet Tapani Lehtinen navigates a post-apocalyptic Helinski, in search of his missing wife, Johanna. Johanna is a journalist who works for a newspaper that is struggling to maintain its relevance in this strange new world. Immediately before here disappearance, she was investigating a serial killer known as "The Healer". The Healer is known for murdering prominent businessmen, politicians, and their families, all because of their involvement in pursuits that harm the environment. As Tapani studies Johanna's research into the murders, he realizes that she was close to discovering the identity of The Healer. Now he worries that she is pursuing this known serial killer, or worse, The Healer is pursuing her. 
    This post-apocalyptic world, as imagined by Tuomaninen, falls in line with the bleak views that most of these European authors write about. Society has failed, medicine and doctors are hard to come by, and the police have been made obsolete by a lack of government, money, technology, and manpower. Therefore, the recover of Johanna falls on the shoulders of her husband, Tapani. As he investigates further into her disappearance, he uncovers secrets from her past that threaten to unravel everything he thought he knew about the woman he loves. 
    Despite the promising premise, I felt that the author was simply going through the motions on this one. I enjoyed the fast pace and entertainment value of the story, but any deeper meaning is either nonexistent or lost in the translation from the original text. There is never enough backstory or emotional depth to make any of the characters worth rooting for. In the end, the motivation behind The Healer's killings is almost laughable. It seemed that the author was trying to make some kind of political statement that comes across as misplaced within the context of the novel. Are we really supposed to believe that with all the chaos and corruption taking place and threatening lives, a person has decided to protect the environment? In this world where infrastructure has failed and disease threatens to spread at plague like speed, it is far more plausible that The Healer would be more concerned with saving his own life, rather than taking others for some political statement. Despite these shortcomings, I have to admit that the novel kept my attention, and I read it easily over the course of an afternoon. While it is not the pinnacle of foreign writing, it is an entertaining read that displays the promise of reading some of these translated novels. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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