Monday, 13 April 2015

As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka

Series: Lumikki Andersson/Snow White Trilogy, Book One
Translated By: Owen F. Witesman
Publisher: Hot Key
Format: Paperback
Published: 7th August 2014
Number of Pages: 240
Book: For Review*
Genre: Mystery, Crime Fiction, Murder Mystery, Gritty Realism, Contemporary, Suspense, Thriller, YA, YA-Adult Crossover
Recommended Age: 14+
Contains: Violence, Death, Swearing, Alcohol, Drug, Smoking and Sexual References

Lumikki Andersson is familiar with secrets and lies, but she also has a rule not to mind other people’s business.
When she discovers a lot of money – hanging, blood stained, in her school darkroom – that rule is put sharply to the test.
Lumikki is quickly drawn deep into the heart of Finland’s criminal underworld, caught in a dangerous web of corruption, deceit and murder.
She is no longer an observer, she is a target.  And she needs to out-smart a ruthless killer.
The first volume in a stunning thriller sequence from acclaimed Finnish crime-writer, Salla Simukka.

“Once upon a time there was a girl who learned to fear.
Fairy tales do not begin this way.  Other, darker stories do…”
Lumikki Andersson is a Finnish-Swedish loner, though she doesn't mind being alone.  You see, she has rules – mottoes.  One is not to meddle – not to get involved.  Another is not to jump to conclusions.
But when she stumbles across thousands of euros of money, hanging up to dry in the darkroom, smelling of old blood, it's hard not to get involved.  Especially when she sees a classmate emerge from the room with a bulging backpack.
Soon, Lumikki is breaking all of her rules, as she's swept up in a dangerous plot involving the darkest areas of Finland's criminal underworld.  All the while trying to stay one step ahead of a vicious, merciless murderer...
As Red As Blood began with a bang and did not let up for a single moment.  I adore crime novels – all sorts in all shapes and forms – and I was so excited to read As Red As Blood.  Man, it did not let me down: it hooked me from the word go.  Sure, to begin with I was a little confused.  But soon everything was clear and I was addicted and then I was halfway through and still reading on, on, on...  Yeah, I love my crime books and this is the first YA thriller that has really, truly captured that gritty, razor-sharp edge I love so much in the adult versions.
Lumikki was a brilliantly different character.  She felt a little cold, a little distant for a while, but I quickly warmed up to her as we got to know her.  She was brave, smart, resourceful and calculating.  From what I could tell, she seemed like a natural at reading people – and a natural actress.  She was strong – so strong that she never asked for help, even when her life was in danger.  She just absolutely intrigued me.  And though she claimed not to be Sherlock Holmes, she certainly thought a lot like him.  And it is so frustrating and amazing that we still don't know her whole backstory.  I'm going to be reading the rest of the series ASAP, just so I can try to understand this fascinating, badass, genius, enigma of a lead girl.
The other characters were a little more meh – not nearly as interesting as Lumikki.  Tuukka and Kasper were kind of dick-like, actually.  But Elisa was so sweet – enthusiastic, a little naive and a little bit broken, but smarter and tougher than she originally appeared.  I also liked how she made Lumikki a little more human – a little more in touch with her emotions.
As for the villains in this book... well, I can't say much, can I?  Can't give spoilers!  All I can say is that they were gangstas.  They were intriguing.  And I have a bad feeling they will come back – the Polar Bear in particular...  
I can't tell you what the original version of this book was like – I don't read Finnish – but I really liked the translation.  Simukka really painted a picture before my eyes, including these awesome seemingly random details that later turned out to mean something.  And I can't quite explain it, but something about Simukka's writing really appealed to me.  She had a way of getting beautiful descriptions into short, sharp sentences – it was such an unusual combination, a formula that shouldn't have worked, and yet it totally did.
The plot... like I said before, I was a little confused to begin with – about how the threads of the story went together.  But soon it was all so brilliantly interlinked and utterly clear.  I liked that we followed different characters' stories, how we got to see into the minds of the good, the bad and the middlings - it worked so well once I'd gone past the first few chapters, once I knew what was going on.  And it was so addictive too!  There was so much build-up, so much suspense, so many teasers about Lumikki's past...  The ending felt a little abrupt, but it also sort of fitted with the story – short, sharp, hard, glistening like frozen snow.  And while this tale was wrapped up, I feel like a new fairy tale built in that last chapter, a new story is about to begin.  And I can't wait to read it.
I'm not going to lie to you, I was kind of expecting a fairy tale retelling, but actually there were just fairy tale references – like how Lumikki means Snow White, the park looked like the Snow Queen had gone through it and a fairy tale-themed party... I quite liked this subtlety – it's so different from all the other fairy-tale retellings out there, mainly thanks to the awesome crime-thriller plot and the fact that it's a key theme (to quote English Lit).  But also because, I think, Simukka took the darkest sides of fairy tales – the warnings that they once contained.  Bad things happen to little girls...  
I've read and enjoyed loads of crime books – including The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which As Red As Blood is a lot like.  But while I love The Dragon Tattoo, but I think I may have enjoyed As Red As Blood more.  Maybe it’s because the characters are nearer to my age.  Maybe it's because Lumikki is fascinating and solitary, not hostile (unless she needs to be).  Maybe it's because there isn't as much horrific violence all the time.  Maybe it's the brilliant vividness the fairy tale theme running through creates.
Or maybe it's because As Red As Blood is a brilliant, exciting and thrilling read that I truly enjoyed – so much so that I really can't wait to read the sequel.  If you're into rather dark crime thrillers with the most interesting lead character I've come across in contemp YA for ages, As Red As Blood is a definite must-read – not to be missed!

Star Rating:
4 Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
Dark Eyes by William Richter
Street Duty by Chris Ould
Empty Coffin and Vengeance by Gregg Olsen

Happy Reading

* This book was received from Hot Key in exchange for an honest review

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