Cruel Is the Night - Owe Witesman, Karo Hämäläinen

 

This has to be one of the more bizarre books I’ve ever read. Described as a “black comedy”, the story unfolds over the course of one evening as 2 couples have dinner in London.

 

Mikko & Veera have come from Finland at the invitation of Robert. These 3 have known each other since high school & have an intricate & contentious history. Also present is Robert’s new bride Elise who seems the epitome of a trophy wife.

We know early on Mikko plans to kill Robert but his motive is not immediately clear. As the dinner progresses, old grudges are revealed as their entire shared history is relived in flashbacks. In alternate chapters, we follow an anonymous character as he flees London after the dinner party. One of them has survived the carnage but we won’t know who until the final chapters. It's an effective device that kept me reading to discover his identity.

 

These are not nice people & you may end up thinking them lucky to have found each other as no one else would have them. Long internal passages make us privy to what each is thinking as conversation around the table continues.

Mikko is a self righteous investigative  journalist who hates everything the wealthy Robert represents. They have heated debates about everything from the financial crisis to who should sit in which chair. Veera is a nurse whose love for her husband doesn’t stop her from finding pleasure outside the marriage. And Elise is best described as beautiful & heavily medicated. Spending time in her head is like being in a Fellini movie.

 

The evening gradually descends into a horrific battle as all 4 have competing agendas. It’s difficult to describe the ensuing mayhem except to say it’s over the top & bloody. Nothing goes as planned & it’s more like survival of the “luckiest”.

 

I’m a huge fan of black humour but it can be a tricky genre because it’s so subjective. I think this will be a very polarizing book. Either you’ll love it or not. Sadly, I fall into the latter camp.  I can only describe it as surreal or perhaps as the love child of existential angst & horror.

 

But hey….not every hat you try on fits. I’m glad I read it as it’s very well written & the author obviously has extensive knowledge of the business world. Possibly something was literally lost in translation for me & no doubt others will find this a perfect fit.