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Cruel is the Night

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2.90  ·  Rating details ·  261 ratings  ·  66 reviews
Prizewinning Finnish author Karo Hamalainen's English-language debut is a literary homage to Agatha Christie and a black comedy locked-room mystery about murder, mayhem, and morality in our cynical modern world.

Three cell phones ring in an opulent London apartment. The calls go unanswered because their recipients are all dead. Earlier that night, four Finnish friends meet
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Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 11th 2017 by Soho Crime (first published 2013)
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2.90  · 
Rating details
 ·  261 ratings  ·  66 reviews


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Sandy
Think I'll avoid dinner parties for a while.....

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 plan
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Andrew
Jul 27, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks
Three phones ring in a deserted flat. Mikko and Veera, a Finnish couple, go to London to spend an evening with Robert, an old friend, and his wife Elise. Mikko is a journalist, an idealist, faithful to its principles and convinced that his work will serve to make the world a better place. Robert is a successful man, rich, knows what he wants and how to get it. A dinner with friends, a time to meet and reinforcing an old friendship, degenerates into an act of violence with three bodies.

From the b
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Cathy Cole
Mar 26, 2017 rated it did not like it
From a fantastic prologue featuring unanswered ringing phones, Cruel Is the Night quickly became a chore for me to read-- despite an added incentive of trying to recognize the Agatha Christie references. The reason why reading this book was such a chore may make some of you sit up and take more notice: it had a cast of characters straight out of Gone Girl. I only lasted twenty-five pages into Gillian Flynn's novel because I wasn't going to waste any more of my life on such repulsive main charact ...more
Kris - My Novelesque Life
RATING: 3 STARS
2017; Soho Crime/Soho Press
(Review Not on Blog)

I requested this book as it had the the tagline "homage to Agatha Christie" and I am a big fan of classic or classic-esque mysteries. Maybe I was too excited at the prospect and it just fell short of those expectations. I listened to this one on audio and raised the star level by one. The production was done really well - it felt like a play and i really enjoyed the start of the novel - the way the plot was set up. Then I lost a bit o
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Kusaimamekirai
Apr 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction-finland
The story sounded really intriguing but there was nothing really very special here. The ending is foreshadowed pretty early in the story and the four characters are all pretty one dimensional, pretentious and unlikable. There's also a lot of aimless philosophizing about Agatha Christie and Vincent Van Gogh which does little to advance the story.
In the absence of people to care about or any suspense, it's not much of a mystery in the (quite implausible) end.
Dna
There's a lot of over-the-dinner-table mystery happening lately, right? The Fallout. The Dinner. Oh, and what about that other book that takes place over a dinner?

In the way of locked room mysteries, if you want one that's done right, go back to the 1940s and read John Dickson Carr, AKA Carter Dickson. He wrote some amazing tiny little novellas.

I skimmed to finish this...no shame. I just half-read another book, so I consider "skimmishing" this one an accomplishment.

Nancy
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was a little leery about this one: the mediocre reviews almost scared me off. I am so glad I went with my gut and gave this weird, offbeat, strange book a try, because it was superb and a real treat.

I honestly don't understand the bad reviews. I will admit that all of the details with the poisons (cynanide vs. strychnine!) and where they were at any given time was a little much to keep up with. Plus, the infidelity between these two couples was a joke; they were practically swingers. That was
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Laura
May 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
The premise of this book is great - four people go to a dinner party and only one survives. I'm not sure if the translation was clunky, but the book moved way too slow. Also, with the possible exception of Veera, the characters were all two dimensional, almost stereotypes. It was very hard to care about or empathize with them.

The alternating, short chapters made the book digestible, and I think I would check out books by this author in the future, since there was some promise here - it's just po
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Janice
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
I found two issues with this novel that were extremely distracting.I had a hard time getting past the amount of alcohol the characters consumed. Seriously, they should have all died of alcohol poisoning. It also seemed to me that a lot of action took place in a very short time frame. In one evening there is drinking, dinner, more drinking, sex,drinking, sauna, more drinking, more sex,more drinking and some smoking, desert, more drinking, a murder, probably more drinking but by then I lost intere ...more
Lynn
Nov 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Four unlikeable people meet for dinner and some of them end up dead.....but you won't mind. Being privy to the thoughts of such a bunch of selfish jerks doesn't inspire sympathy, but laughter. Heavy topics but light reading.
Susan Judd
Aug 21, 2017 rated it did not like it
Boring, unbelievable, featherbrained storyline of 2 sets of married couples at a dinner party. The book is narrated in first person and every chapter alternates among the 4 diners. Unfortunately, much of the characters thoughts, ideals and feelings are repeated over and over again. The characters’ actions don’t make a lot of sense, one guest brings a strychnine capsule to the party with a plans to sneak it into a drink at some point during the evening, in the hopes of "killing" the host / best f ...more
Cindy J.
Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book was intriguing as you knew 3 people were dead at the beginning (not a spoiler) and then the book unraveled the story told through the 4 characters involved. The plot unfolds during a dinner party. Each of the 4 characters had chapters told from their perspective, their internal thoughts or their conversational interaction during the party. The various topics discussed during this party were interesting and ran the gamut from financial banking to game show questions. The ending was appr ...more
Delma Wheeler
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I love Nordic writers-Icelandic, Swedish, Norwegian, and now Finnish. I look forward to reading another story by this writer. This one gave me the creeps. I had just finished this book and went on vacation and stayed in a hotel with creaking floor boards just like the house in this story. I kept waking during the night and hoping I wouldn't see a spectral shape in the dark.
Deborah Vietze
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quirky, violent and philosophical

Liked the pace and first person voice of four characters. You'll think you have it figured out but you won't until the end. Well constructed and written.
Nadia
Sep 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Finnish Agatha Christie ... dark, mysterious and murderous! Love the cynical world of mystery :)
Ward
Cruel is the Night has some parallels with Herman Koch's The Dinner, as it's a psychological mystery developing among two sets of marrieds at dinner. While I give The Dinner 5 stars (readers either love Koch's novel or hate it), my rating is lower for Cruel is the Night. I liked the short chapters alternating among the 4 diners. While the story essentially developed chronologically in the present, there are flashbacks which provide a deeper layer upon the present. I don't always like short, alte ...more
Greya
Nov 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Even though the broad foreshadowing unforgivably illuminates the lone survivor of the novel and the characters are somewhat unlovable, there is still goodness in this bright and quirky story.
Four friends/lovers with a past converge for a drama (and farce) that constitutes the breadth of one bizarre evening. You must suspend belief and relegate yourself to the perspective of observer and then let the tale unfold. There is something in each character to represent the dark side of any|every human p
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Keen
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it

“The human race had learned many things, but its leaders had never shaken off their megalomania, egocentricity, and need for attention. Rather than gods and kings, twenty-first century monuments were built with other people’s money by bankers looking to enlarge their egos. These were just a new form of personal mausoleum.”

Originally published in 2013 in Finnish, “Cruel Is The Night” is more than deserving of its belated English translation. From the opening page this is a captivating thriller, q
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Woody Chandler
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
I begin with a quote from Sir Walter Scott's poem, "Marmion (1808)" - "O what a tangled web we weave/when first we practice to deceive".

I Finnished (sorry) reading this one while watching my recording of today's Finland/O.A.R. Olympic Women's Hockey Bronze Medal game, which I found fitting.

The dust cover likens it to an homage to Agatha Christie, which is fitting, since she is name-checked at various times. It also refers to the book as a "locked-room mystery" which is imprecise.

What would be
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Susan
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
The book takes place over a dinner and the course of one evening - two couples, three of whom are old friends and one younger wife. The book starts well, yet as the alcohol flows, the evening and the characters become more unpleasant. The quality of the writing gradually slides, and the plot becomes more unbelievable. Most outlandish is the (view spoiler) ...more
Karen Piccalo
Sep 01, 2017 rated it liked it
This book reminded me a lot of an Agatha Christie novel. I read the entire book, but often I felt a little like I was sludging through mud. The good stuff doesn't really get going until about 75% through the book. Being half Finnish I found the idea of a Finnish author and Finnish characters interesting as is why I picked up the book, but the book could just as easily been American characters.
Not a bad idea for a book, but I just wish it had been more interesting up until things got moving. I al
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Neil Szigethy
Nov 11, 2017 rated it liked it
A challenging setup that actually worked pretty well – the story explores the bizarre relationship among four friends told in first person by each. There were a few places where the translation from Finnish didn't quite work, but mostly it was an involving story, and one that built slowly but well. Why not four stars? With the exception of one of the characters, who was simply carefree and careless, the other characters were neither hateful nor admirable. Calculating? Passionate? Yes, but not en ...more
Stephanie Cowart
May 17, 2018 rated it liked it
So this book reminded me a bit of The Dinner by Herman Koch, which is why I picked it up. Of course I hadn’t read any reviews until I was over 100 pages in. It had a lot of promise - unlikeable characters and a mystery with lots of Agatha Christie references but ultimately it fell flat and the ending was just a let down. I think maybe the author had many views on capitalism and the environment and other political ideas that he used his characters to speak to and that was quite boring. The writin ...more
Martina
First English-translation of a Finnish novel by Karo Hamalainen.

You know from the publicity about the book that 4 friends get together for the first time in 10 years and before the weekend is over, 3 of them are dead. Three of the four were friends from school days, the fourth is the wife of the one living large in London where they meet. He's a power in banking and very well off from taking advantage of a number of unethical practices. The story is told from the points of view of each of the f
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Divya D'souza
May 28, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Laura
I'm giving this two stars, not because it was bad, but because it was just bleh.

The plot and story were fine; the characters were fine; the ending was irritating. I listened to the audiobook and, while the multiple narrators were all...fine, I couldn't keep the characters straight, and was frequently five minutes into one chapter before realizing that it was a different character than I'd originally thought.

There are better books.
Deb
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
This has to be the most bizarre book I have read. From the beginning to the end I don't know why I kept on reading it other then I expected a surprise ending. That didn't happen. However the ending was very bizarre. There's not much to say other then friends gather together for a dinner and a weekend in London at one of the friend's homes. From there it's indescribable so one must read it to understand my review.
Kabll2yahoo.Com
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Hamalainen's style keeps the reader guessing as it switches between character narratives revealing thoughts as the interconnected relationships. I really appreciated the quality of the language and editing. The perspectives are interesting as each provides subjective insight into everyone else. A few bits--like the sword fighting and romance--are a bit over the top, but overall the novel holds your attention and adds surprises at the end.
Anne
May 11, 2017 rated it did not like it
I found myself grimacing with dislike as I read the first half of this book. Then I put it down and couldn't bring myself to pick it up again. So it's one half read. Incredibly dislikeable characters and though it starts by telling you three of the four are dead, it didn't take long to realize I didn't care how they got that way. ...more
Madelynp
Aug 10, 2018 rated it did not like it
I just...meh. So completely meh. Mehhhhhh. The characters are all terrible, the writing (or the translation?) wasn't great, and the premise was weak. The constant call-outs to Agatha Christie's novels made sense given the plot, but Cruel Is The Night lacked Christie's charm. I got through this novel, but I imagine I will never think of it again after donating it to a library.
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