As Red As Blood – Salla Simukka (Book Review)

as red as blood

As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka is an intriguing fast paced mystery that will introduce young adult readers into what a grown up crime novel is like. Filled with compelling and intriguing characters and enough twists and turns to make the most jaded mystery reader lose their mind.

“…As she sewed, gazing out at the snow, the needle pricked her finger, bringing forth three drops of blood, which fell onto the snow. Seeing the beauty of the red upon the white, she thought within herself, ‘Would that I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as the wood in this window frame…”

In the cold Artic winter, seventeen year old Lumikki Andersson arrives at school. She is a solitary figure, not part of the crowd but not unique enough to be separate from it. Separated from her parents, she lives alone in a studio apartment and attends a prestigious art school. She blends in quietly, unless she wanted, no one would ever notice her. And that is how she wants it to be. To blend in. To not be noticed. To be on her own. Only that is about to all change. Stepping into the dark room of her photography classroom she stares at all the paper hanging and drying in the dark. Euros. Five hundred euro bills hanging and drying and there are dozens of them. And the stench. The smell of blood that fills the room. She rushes out and sits on her own. What can she do? What should she do? Does she call the principal? The police? Or does she do nothing? Deciding to take one of the bills to the principal she returns to the dark room, to find it empty. No money. Just the old rancid smell of blood on the blood. And there was the boy, the one with the backpack who just rushed past her. The one who never carries a backpack.

Everything changes for Lumikki as the money and the rich kids and the mob all want to know what she knows. Who the money belongs to and why was it drenched in blood?

Lumikki’s solitary life is about to break open and everything she tried to build, to hide from her past is about to come rushing back. If she can survive long enough.

As Red as Blood is a well written crime novel set in the Nordic winter with young adult characters, which unfortunately will lend itself to comparisons to The Girl With Dragon Tattoo and that is just too bad. Because those kind of comparisons are just bad, lazy marketing. It is not a young adult Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Lumikki is not Lizbeth. What it is, is a very well plotted crime novel that is quick paced and built upon strong characters.

Lumikka is smart, damaged and fiercely independent. Having been abandoned or betrayed by her parents at a young age and abused by family members, though how she was betrayed and how she was abused is vague in this story, she has become self-reliant. Living on her own and moving on with her life. She stumbles upon this mystery and though reluctant at first, is drawn into solving the puzzle of the bloody money. The young new friends that are involved are foolish and immature and don’t realize how much trouble they are really in until it is too late. Until it is up to Lumikka to somehow save them all.

I found the writing crisp and moving, something that can be lost in a book that is translated. The plot well crafted and strong. As Red as Blood did come to something of an abrupt end and for me I would have liked something more fleshed out, but overall a well written novel that if not for the age of the characters, would not be pigeon holed as a young adult book.

A very good read.

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