Salla Simukka’s As Red As Blood was first published in Finland last year, and has been translated into English by Owen F. Witesman. The novel is, says its blurb, the first book in a ‘stunning thriller sequence from [an] acclaimed Finnish crime writer’.
The protagonist of the piece is Lumikki Andersson, a young high school student living in Tampere, who has a rule ‘not to mind other people’s business’ – a rule which is about to be challenged by circumstance. She is ‘drawn deep into the heart of Finland’s criminal underworld’ when she finds a stash of bloodstained money in her elite art school’s photography room. She soon becomes a target, and has to ‘out-smart a ruthless killer’ in consequence.
As Red As Blood begins at the end of February, a time at which ‘Fifteen minutes earlier everything had still been possible… Now each moment saw more red intermingling with the white, spreading, gaining ground, creeping forward through the crystals, staining them as it went’. A Russian woman named Natalia Smirnova is introduced in this, the book’s first chapter, as she is making her escape from the scene to a dacha in the Russian countryside. She is shot dead before she can flee, however, and it is her blood which stains the banknotes. The money is then found mysteriously in the garden of Elisa, a girl in Lumikki’s school year.
Lumikki is drawn into the mystery when she discovers the money in the refuge of the dark room. When she returns to the room, having made a decision with what to do regarding her discovery, she finds that the money is gone. Elisa and two of her friends, including Tuukka, the son of the school’s principal, have smuggled it out of the school and are intending to keep it. It is when Lumiiki tails them and is caught in the act that she becomes involved in their plan, much to her dismay.
The third person narrative perspective and sentence structures used throughout works well. Simukka is great at creating tension and describing scenes, using as few words as possible. The novel draws you in almost immediately, and as a character study within such circumstances, it is fascinating. As Red As Blood is certainly a great addition to the Scandinavian crime fiction which has recently been translated into English, and I imagine that there will be many who will eagerly await the second volume in the series.