As Red As Blood
by Salla Simukka (trans. Owen F Witesman)
Seventeen-year-old Lumikki Andersson is hardly your average teenager. She lives by herself in the city of Tampere, Finland, and has a firm rule to mind nobody's business but her own. But that rule is put to the test when she happens upon five hundred washed euro notes hanging up to dry in her school's darkroom, and it is shattered once Lumikki realises who owns them.
Caught in an increasingly tangled web of deception, corruption and danger, Lumikki finds herself navigating the Tampere's dark underbelly in the search to expose its shocking connection to the international drugs trade. Lumikki is smart, but is she smarter than a master criminal? Can she bring down the infamous 'Polar Bear' - or will she become another one of his victims?
The first part of a thrilling new Nordic crime series, AS RED AS BLOOD will have you on the edge of your seat until the last page is turned... and then some.
The novel opens with Natalia, a young woman on a mission: a handbag stuffed with money, a passport and plane ticket to Moscow. But she’s soon down in the winter snow, her blood turning it red.
Lumikki Andersson (Swedish-Finnish and named after Snow White), was glad to leave her old life behind to attend high school in the big city of Tampere, Finland. Bullied as a child and with a difficult family, she was used to silence in her life, used to hiding in plain sight, a loner on alert. Aged seventeen Lumikki lives alone in an apartment, which suits her just fine.
Lumikki's past has seen her develop some useful skills, such as the ability to detect smells and to master disguise. She’s smart and different, not unlike a young Lisbeth Salander, and she’s a people watcher, something that soon lands her in danger after she finds lots of crumpled 500 euro notes. She was in her school’s dark room taking her morning refuge, the room a hiding place for her, but the dark room’s full of drying money and it stinks of dried blood. She not one to meddle but learns more about this loot simply by observing and listening.
A fellow student, Tuukka, the son of the school principle, is soon spotted coming out the dark room with a backpack. Despite being an arrogant unruly sort he’s one of a group of three cool kids that Lumikki becomes mixed up with. They each have their own connections that make for a potent, dangerous mix. Lumikki’s burgeoning friendship with the girl in the group, Elisa, is a particularly interesting relationship and the group dynamic works well.
At only 236 pages in length it’s packed with action, narrow escapes, memorable set pieces and terrific characters. A brilliant read, especially for the YA market. The plot is complex with dangerous drug cartels, the local cops and the students’ lives all intertwining. And just who is this master criminal known as the polar bear?
It’s a cold destination but this story has a warm heart.
This, the first of a great trilogy, is probably the best book in the series.
About Salla Simukka:
Salla Simukka is a best-selling Finnish novelist, translator and literary critic, known for her young adult series The Snow White Trilogy, which was originally published in Finnish as the Lumikki Andersson trilogy. Simukka lives in Tampere. She has studied Nordic philology, Finnish language, general literature, creative writing and women's studies at the University of Turku.