Pimeän arkkitehti (2020) by Marko Hautala

9789520417772_frontcover_final_originalNOTE! This novel is (for now) only available in Finnish.

Joni moves into an apartment block built in the 1960s, a sentence that alone evokes existential horror. However, the building in question hides something worse than the usual problems with mould and pipe leaks, and slowly Joni learns from his new neighbours about the deaths that have taken place in the house during its existence. And all of them seem to point to one person, an eccentric architect who happened to live in Joni’s apartment. Joni’s own mental issues aren’t really helping him. 

The story works, because most people are very familiar with many of the situations and places. Who hasn’t felt a slight chill when visiting a basement in his or her own apartment block, a basement that somehow manages to look more and more like a tomb in the bleak glow of a single lightbulb. Noisy air conditioners somewhere outside have kept us awake at night. And everyone has met a strange neighbour or two. When this almost banal setting is given a slight push towards the unnatural and the supernatural, it feels like a very logical next step. Hautala also builds up the suspense with a good rhythm, all the way to the slightly sarcastic ending.

Pimeän arkkitehti (literally, “Architect of the Dark”) is some of the best that Finnish horror has to offer. It’s both a modern horror novel but also very well versed with the history of its genre, kind of like the modern apartment block with its ancient roots in the centre of the story. A strong local setting also gains it extra points, although ugly big apartment houses can and do exist anywhere in the world.

***** (5/5)

Available now in Finnish only from Tammi.