Publisher, umbrella connoisseur, and accidental film-club member Olli Souminen fears he may be having a midlife crisis. It’s actually much worse: He’s being pulled into an alternate storyline in which he plays the cinematic hero.
Like Walter Mitty, Olli drifts into daydreams riddled with mermaids, voluptuous umbrella saleswomen, and his long-lost love, Greta. Bored with his wife, Aino, and their son, Lauri, Olli accidentally reconnects over Facebook with Greta, who has become a bestselling author. Her book, A Guide to the Cinematic Life, has inspired countless readers to remake themselves in the images of Veronica Lake, Grace Kelly, and other glamorous artists. Hoping to buttress his foundering publishing house, Olli pursues Greta, gaining not only a contract for her next book—the first in a series of magical travel guides—but also a shot at rekindling their romance. Yet events spiral quickly out of control as Olli’s wife and son disappear, kidnapped by the Blomroos siblings, Olli’s erstwhile childhood friends: Anne, Leo, and Riku. Every summer, Olli had palled around with the Blomrooses and their cousin, Karri, seeking secret tunnels throughout Finland’s countryside. Only Karri could ever find the tunnels, yet they all wriggled their way through the claustrophobic wormholes, no one remembering the strange happenings underground. Thirty years after Karri disappeared and a terrible summer morning splintered their friendship, the Blomrooses have returned, whisking Olli’s wife and son offstage, determined to orchestrate the final scenes of Olli and Greta’s great love affair. Finnish novelist Jääskeläinen (The Rabbit Back Literature Society, 2015) deftly channels the tropes of the big screen—from saturated colors and chiaroscuro to stolen lines and melodramatic scenes, he stages the glittering affair doomed by the secrets of that fateful summer, the mystery of Karri’s disappearance, and the truth about what happened in the secret tunnels.
A beguiling, unexpected blend of whimsical romance and suspenseful noir.