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Extract: Dark As My Heart by Antti Tuomainen

Dark As My Heart is the new novel by Finnish author Antti Tuomainen.

Aleksi lost his mother on a rainy October day when he was thirteen years old. Twenty years later, he is certain that he knows who’s responsible. Everything points to millionaire Henrik Saarinen. The police don’t agree. He has only one option: to get close to Saarinen and find out the truth about his mother’s fate on his own. But as Aleksi soon discovers, delving into Saarinen and his alluring daughter’s family secrets is a confusing and dangerous enterprise.

Dark As My Heart tells the story of a mother and son and the search for justice. Both a Hitchcockian mystery and a modern Greek tragedy, it’s a story about the cost of obsessions, the price of vengeance and the power of love.

Read on for an extract from this brilliant novel!

Dark As My Heart
by
Antti Tuomainen

THE BEGINNING

She’d met a man and now her mouth was filling with blood. These things were connected, and yet not connected.
        What had she done wrong?
        Nothing she could think of.
        And yet . . .
        Her chin stung on one side, the crushed outer fingers of her left hand cried out in pain, and it seemed there was worse to come.
        It was incredible how quickly her mind was flying, the things it found, the things it saw and remembered.
        A year earlier her life had changed completely. No, not completely. It changed completely thirteen years ago, when her son was born. But over the past year her life had opened up, as if a piece of paper wadded in her fist had been smoothed flat, as if a storm had moved on and the sun had risen after years below the horizon.
        She’d heard that in moments of great distress you don’t really feel distressed, that at the moment of death or intense panic or shock, you don’t realise you’re going to die. It wasn’t true, of course. She was thinking with a level of clarity she’d seldom experienced before.
        She even saw how beautiful everything was, everything on either side of the long, gleaming knife. Her son. Her life. In that order.
        The brilliance of that thought lit up the inside of the car, its cramped and airless space tinted a feverish artificial green by the dashboard lights, as if they were in a submarine sinking for miles into deep water. But the thought didn’t remain submerged in the car. It lit up the creeping October evening outside, the thick grey veil of rain like a mist, but wetter, and freezing cold. She saw all of her thirty-two years, and she knew what was important and what wasn’t.
        If there had been time, she might have laughed. If there had been time, she might have thought – practical and optimistic as she was – that things could be worse. That she could have raced through her life without understanding its beauty, without seeing the wonders before her, all around her. She could have been, even now, absorbed in some inessential thing.
        Instead she was fending off a knife with her hand.
        The long, steel blade pierced her skin again. Her hand, narrow and delicate. The knife broad and cold. It went through her palm and into her wrist.
        She said to herself again that this was happening because she’d met a man, befriended him.
        She said this to herself many times. The truth of it was shocking. She’d met a man, she was fending off a knife. There could hardly have been a greater incongruity between the two, and yet the first thing led to the second. To this. She remembered an American movie where a tired policeman was trying to sum up the nature of life to his younger colleague. Anything can happen to anyone at any time, he said.
        I guess so.
        But still.
        She thought about her son again. There were suddenly so many things she ought to talk to him about. They started to trample over each other, crowd each other out, tumbling and clashing and tripping in their rush.
        Her son. He should at least know . . .
        How much she loved him . . .
        That required sacrifice.
        She had to reach her hand further. That made her chest and stomach vulnerable to the swiftly swinging knife.
        She lunged forward as far as the safety belt would let her. How ironic that they called it a safety belt.
        Her hand got hold of something, her fingernails scratched. She scratched the side of a neck, dug her nails as deep as she could with the strength she had left. She was sure that her nails were piercing flesh, sure that she felt blood and muscle under her fingers.
        This had a price. She had opened her arms. The knife struck her chest.
        Her strength was running out. She couldn’t feel her hands any more. A moment later she realised that they were in her lap, saw that under her fingernails – the nails that weren’t broken, the fingers that weren’t broken – there was skin and blood that was a different colour to her own.
        That was something.
        The knife stopped swinging.
        The car moved.
        She realised that she wasn’t holding her breath. She just couldn’t breathe.
        She wanted to get out of the car. She thought – clearly, lucidly – that she had to get away, had to make herself get away.
        And at that moment she felt as if she was flying, rushing towards the warmest, friendliest of suns.
        It seemed her wish was coming true.
        She was flying to her son.
 

1 Comment

    I did not understand the final chapter of Dark As my Heart. The significance of the stranger at the back of the church at Aleksi’s mothers funeral.

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