FILI Books Picks – Fiction

Leena Parkkinen's photo.

© Jonne Räsänen/ Otava

Leena Parkkinen: Miss Stein’s Cook

The principal character in this novel has a little-known real-world counterpart, but this is the first time that she’s been given an entire fictitious story of her own.

In the early 1900s a crime is committed in Parainen in the Archipelago Sea in Finland. The tragedy separates two close sisters who have spent their lives together working as servants.Two decades later one of the siblings becomes a cookery maid in the Parisian household of none other than renowned avant garde authors Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.

Both the Finnish protagonist Margit and the historical Alice are defined by their roles as serving women — Toklas worked as Gertrude’s editor, muse, and typist in addition to being her lover.

A special trust is born between the two servants from two different cultures.

Leena Parkkinen is the recipient of multiple literary honors, and has written a sensual narrative that vitalizes 1930s Paris and shines a light on culture-defining women at the height of their youthful powers. Masterful cuisine also plays a part in this story of the kind of love that makes people dote on one another unrelentingly — for better or worse.

Original title: Neiti Steinin keittäjätär. Otava 2022, 464 pp.
Foreign rights: Elina Ahlbäck Literary Agency,

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Kari Hotakainen's photo.

© Laura Malmivaara

The cover of the book.

Kari Hotakainen: Disciple

Another powerful book here. Disciple by Kari Hotakainen is dark and fiery, a story about alienation and revenge — but always about seeking connection, as well. The story begins with Maria, a 30-year-old ex-mechanic who’s been severely marginalized in her life. She’s running out of options, and resorts to drastic measures when she violently kidnaps three people and takes them where she used to work, a now-abandoned gas station.

Maria’s arc starts with childhood abandonment in foster care; she wants to punish others for not living honestly. Her victims are all conceited in some way: like the restaurant critic who hates those who’re too poor to eat, and the actor full of jargon and hot air. Maria spouts Biblical verse monologues and fancies herself a sort of “beacon of truth”, and an inquisitor who wants to judge wrong-doers for their sins.

Hotakainen is a master of tension and atmosphere, and Disciple is thrilling all the way through. His language is sparse and even poetic, which stands to reason since he started his literary career in poetry some 40 years ago. This is also a book that’ll hopefully shock you into rethinking a lot of problematic values in society. It’s an all-round great work of fiction!

Original title: Opetuslapsi. Siltala 2022, 271 pp.
Foreign rights: Helsinki Literary Agency,

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Riikka Pulkkinen's photo

© Jonne Räsänen/ Otava

Cover of the book.

Riikka Pulkkinen: The Enchantment

Here’s a quote from renowned author Riikka Pulkkinen’s new novel, called “Lumo” or “The Enchantment”:

“I am anything at all, I am the world. I am the girl of girls, I am everything you can imagine and that which you will not speak aloud.”

At the center of this story there is a 17-year-old girl, who is no stranger to all kinds of different roles. Disturbingly, the book begins with another girl named Philippa being found dead in her own garden.

The protagonist approaches the core of the narrative through the experiences of Philippa’s mother, best friend Saga, ex-boyfriend Oliver, Alex the 80-year-old neighbor, a busy mother named Alina, and a bunch of guys looking for dates. Videos from Philippa’s phone and the coroner’s autopsy report shed more light on the fragmented picture.

As the dead girl’s life starts to come into focus, it becomes clear that in life she was able to be both pleasant and manipulative, wise yet cruel, a Lolita figure as well as a playful person. The novel doesn’t offer any clear, singular picture of Philippa.

The primary theme of the book concerns the image that we each project as people, and the way it changes from one perspective and era to the next.

“The Enchantment” is also a deep dive into what it means to live as a girl, and a window into the vulnerabilities, breaking points, and forms of growth that people of all ages go through.

This is Pulkkinen’s seventh novel, and it’s a master class in the art of storytelling.

Original title: Lumo. Otava 2022, 382 pp.
Foreign rights: Elina Ahlbäck Literary Agency,

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Johanna Holmström's photo.

© Niklas Sandström

The cover of the book.

Johanna Holmström: Lucid Dreams – A User’s Manual

Despite the title, this book is no ordinary trip guide. It’s a collection of short stories, written in Swedish, that spans the depths of darkness found in the human mind, and the ways that people’s relationships sometimes grow crooked. The weaving stories run from the 2000s with its social turmoil, climate crisis, and pandemics — all the way into the 2200s, when the role of artificial intelligence has expanded greatly.

Lucid Dreams is acclaimed author Johanna Holmström’s sixth publication. It’s divided into ten separate stories, but their interconnectedness soon holds you in its grip, as a breathtaking continuum of events. The sense of connection is underscored by an atmosphere of true horror, which grows and grows. Something evil or mystical is always present in these pages.

The same mystique and raw power can also be found in Holmström’s use of language, as well, which veers away from sheer anxiety. The setting may be dark and bleak, but the attitude of the book in total is more like a katharsis.

Feminist ideals also play a strong part in the plot and themes, as Holmström has masterfully done in previous stories, too. This is a dark, swirling pearl of a collection. The stories inside demonstrate how humanity’s capacity for good is limited — maybe other life forms could do a better job…

Original title: Handbok i klardrömmar. Förlaget 2022, 302 pp.
Foreign rights: Salamonsson Agency,

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© Janita Autio

Cover of the book.

Satu Rämö: Hildur

In this novel by Satu Rämö, a small village community on the West Fjords of Iceland has just one criminal detective. Hildur Rúnarsdóttir unwinds by surfing and jogging, as she tries to deal with her anxiety over the mystical disappearance of her sisters 25 years earlier. She’s a traumatized detective who finds lost children as a living. She partners with Finnish cop in training, Jakob, who has emigrated to Iceland to avoid a difficult situation. The characters are made flesh and blood in an impressive way through their daily interactions. The realistic plot also takes the reader along for a dark and nuanced ride.

One of the characters in this powerful “Nordic noir” story is the island of Iceland itself. The local nature, its untamed majesty as well as its ruggedness are brought to life so strongly that the country starts beckoning to the reader after this read. Satu Rämö is a first-time thriller writer who has previously written travel books about Iceland. The far Nordic nation creates an almost cinematic setting for the novel, as a land of giants and magical tales.

A fascinating new series of Finnish whodunits is born!

Original title: Hildur. WSOY 2022, 363 pp.
Foreign rights: Bonnier Rights Finland,

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Meri Valkama

©Otto Virtanen

Book Cover

Meri Valkama: Yours, Margot

Winner of the Debut of the the Year Prize 2021.

A fascinating debut novel about the fragility of memory and the power of silence, but also about the collapse of a nation as well as the right to feel nostalgic for a fallen society.

In the early 80’s, Markus Siltanen moves with his family to East Berlin as a foreign correspondent. When the family eventually returns to Finland, Vilja’s childhood memories begin to dissolve into nothingness. In 2011, after her father’s death, Vilja finds a bundle of letters from someone called Margot with whom her father had a passionate affair in Berlin. Vilja makes a decision to track Margot and returns to Berlin.
Meri Valkama approaches the crumbling of family ties, remembrance and forgetting, and the need to understand the past in order to move on.

Original title: Sinun, Margot. WSOY 2022, 556 pp.
Foreign rights: Bonnier Rights Finland,

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Pekka Juntti

©Antti J. Leinonen

Book Cover

Pekka Juntti: Wild Dog

A strong debut novel, set in the forgotten villages of Lapland where people and trees take care of each other.

When Samuel finds out that Nanok and Inuk, two of the prestigious mushing dogs, have gone lost and within only a few days have gone wild and learned to hunt, the young man is determined to track the huskies down. On the way, he stumbles upon too many village secrets and is ostracized by his community. He ventures deeper and deeper into the wilderness of the breathtaking Arctic landscape, and in a near-death experience learns that there are still places where nature is predominant.
Wild Dog tackles humanity’s relationship with nature, especially how humans have taken control of flatland’s gorgeous waterways and cut down its magnificent forests. A gripping plot carries this story along, knitting together all of its important topics.

Original title: Villikoira. Otava 2022, 352 pp.
Foreign rights: Rights & Brands,

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E.L. Karhu

©Liisa Takala

Book Cover

E. L. Karhu: To My Brother

A masterful and sometimes brutal tale of an anonymous woman who dotes on her very different brother. She emerges as a sort of anti-hero, an almost ugly character who is bound compulsively to her desires, while her brother is described as a handsome dreamboat. She doesn’t manage to fit inside the norms of the day, while her brother more clearly does. If someone were to look at her, they might see a loser who binges on sweets, devours soap operas, and trails her brother like a shadow but whose manic narration forces one to stare, to look more closely.
To My Brother is an absurd bildungsroman germinating from internalized self-hatred, one that takes place at the fringes if the center is a multi-part mirror.

Original title: Veljelleni. Teos 2021, 288 pp.
Foreign rights: Helsinki Literary Agency,

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Maisku Myllymäki

©Tomi Reunanen

Book Cover

Maisku Myllymäki: Holly

A hypnotising and fervent novel about two very different women and a psychological suspense story about isolation.

Eva, who works as a journalist for a nature magazine, arrives on an island in search of a rare bird. She doesn’t know Holly, the woman who made the sighting. As she walks the island in search of the bird, focus gradually begins to turn on the two women and their relationship. They seem to have nothing at all in common and the loneliness on this faded island is far from silent. The novel takes its cue from Iris Murdoch’s novel The Sea, the Sea, which is Holly’s favorite book. The pace of the novel is thrilling, filled to the brim with meaning.

Original title: Holly. WSOY 2021, 225 pp.
Foreign rights: Ferly,

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Iida Rauma

©Marek Sabogal

Book Cover

Iida Rauma: Destruction

A case study of an individual who was nearly destroyed and all that is being destroyed right now.

Destruction is about bullying and the violent and long-lasting effects it has on children growing up with fear. While jogging at night, A sees a familiar figure at the city’s desolate fringes and realizes nothing ends, nothing is over. So begins a breathless, desperate attempt to hunt down and escape the past across the ravaged city of Turku, into the water-damaged classrooms of the 1990s and a darkness for which there are no words but still must be expressed. A cruel, precise and breathless description of many years of oppression, psychological trauma and even outright physical violence.

Original title: Hävitys. Siltala 2021, 370 pp.
Foreign rights: Helsinki Literary Agency,

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Jukka Viikilä

©Jonne Räsänen/Otava

Book Cover

Jukka Viikilä: Heavenly Reception

Winner of the Finlandia Prize 2021.

Author Jan Holm is undergoing urgent surgery: the blood in his heart has been circulating in the wrong direction for who knows how long. After leaving the hospital, Holm publishes a personal novel of which everyone will soon have an opinion.
Heavenly Reception is a novel of a thousand subjects and persons with a strong personal core, a commentary, research, glossary, feedback and google search, a wild explanation work and, above all, a polyphonic story about the readers of Helsinki who in return tell about the events in their lives and reading Heavenly Reception. The text is fragmentary, both confusing and well-managed, but isn’t a challenge to read thanks to the dazzling language. A work about loneliness, serious illness and metafiction.

Original title: Taivaallinen vastaanotto. Otava 2021, 377 pp.
Foreign rights: Rights & Brands,

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Matias Riikonen


Matias Riikonen: Matara

Winner of the Tulenkantaja Prize 2021, nominated for the Finlandia and Runeberg Prizes.

Matara is about an imaginary micro nation founded by a group of boys called Matara. This fictional state is a complex society based on the Roman empire with all its rules, hierarchies and complicated infrastructure. Senators scheme in togas made of sheets, mannequins make for wives, and circus entertainments are devised to thrill the charcoal-whiskered rabble. At times one forgets one is reading a portrayal of boys at play and fears one is reading a description of reality.

Original title: Matara. Teos 2021, 310 pp.
Foreign rights: Helsinki Literary Agency,

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Niillas Holmberg

©Marek Sabogal

Halla Helle

Niillas Holmberg: Halla Helle

Samu leaves Southern Finland behind and moves to Sápmi. Something strange and powerful is taking him to Utsjoki: Elle Hallala, the best-known Sámi person in Finland, known by her artist alias Halla Helle.

Halla Helle is the striking first novel of Niillas Holmberg, whose poetry collections have been nominated for the Nordic Council Literature Prize twice. It is also the first novel published in decades that is written by a Sámi author dealing with Sámi identity and culture.

Original title: Halla Helle. Gummerus 2021, 455 pp.
Foreign rights: Helsinki Literary Agency,

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Koko Hubara

©Jonne Räsänen/Otava


Koko Hubara: Bechi

A groundbreaking debut novel from one of the most interesting authors of the generation.

How can you not destroy your own child? Why do two people remember everything so differently? And what are the things they would rather forget? Bechi is the story of a close, yet destructive relationship between a mother and a daughter, and of a desire to belong somewhere while also wanting to break free.

Original title: Bechi. Otava Publishers 2021, 300 pp.
Foreign rights: Elina Ahlback Literary Agency,

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Martta Kaukonen

©Otto Virtanen


Martta Kaukonen: Follow the Butterfly

An addictive psychological thriller about a twenty-year-old serial killer and her therapist in the spirit of Gillian Flynn.

Ida, 20, was abused as a child, and now her talented celebrity therapist Clarissa is determined to save her. They begin a cat-and-mouse game, and only one of them knows that they share a mutual secret from the past. Will the other one realize it before she gets murdered?

Original title: Terapiassa. WSOY 2021, 407 pp.
Foreign rights: Elina Ahlback Literary Agency,

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Joona Keskitalo

©Uupi Tirronen


Joona Keskitalo: The Disobedient

A shameless and highly addictive story about a ruthless climb to the top of the drug game.

Former schoolmates meet again by chance and come up with a new business idea. They put all their marketing, branding, and logistics skills to use and find new ways to effectively promote, sell, and distribute drugs on the dark web. The Disobedient starts a series of crime novels that dive into the core of the unpredictable world of drug business.

Original title: Tottelemattomat. Bazar 2021, 377pp.
Foreign rights: Ferly,

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Kaj Korkea-aho

©Niklas Sandström

The Red Room

Kaj Korkea-aho: The Red Room

How far are we willing to go to fulfill the fantasies of our own and of others?

A young writer promises to write a book in exchange for an affordable apartment in Helsinki. But when a lonely gentleman offers him the home of his dreams, the young man finds himself involved in a remarkable game. He begins to write a story that takes the reader to the labyrinth of desire and submission, to the nightlife of 1980s Helsinki, and to the intricate setups of relationships between men – but what is his place in it?

Original title: Röda rummet. Förlaget 2021, 320 pp.
Foreign rights: Elina Ahlback Literary Agency,

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©Otto Virtanen

Look at Me

Saija Kuusela: Look at Me

A masterfully written novel takes the reader to the Scandinavian wilderness.

Nea Guttorm is a half-Sámi police officer who leaves Oslo and her just ended marriage behind and moves up north to find peace and tranquility. But suddenly her new community is shaken to its core when an unidentified man’s body is discovered in an icy mountain stream, with the man’s eyes removed. Are Nea’s visions the key to solving this mystery? The Nea Guttorm series begins.

Original title: Katse. Tammi Publishers 2021, 352 pp.
Foreign rights: Bonnier Rights Finland,

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Rosa Liksom

©Johanna Laitanen

The River

Rosa Liksom: The River

A captivating novel about migration, refugee camps, and the boundary between life and death.

September 1944. Tens of thousands of people are abandoning their homes to escape the destruction left in the wake of the Lapland War. A young girl whose family has been devastated by the conflict makes her way through this landscape, leading the cows from her home farm all the way.

”A northern masterpiece” (Karjalainen)

Original title: Väylä. Like Publishing 2021, 269 pp.
Foreign rights: Hedlund Literary Agency,

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Tuomas Niskakangas

©Jonne Räsänen/Otava

Tuomas Niskakangas: Their Turn to Burn

A skillfully plotted fast-paced political thriller.

Helsinki 2027. The young prime minister and leader of the right coalition, Leo Koski, wakes up on a Saturday morning to a hangover, with a naked woman in his bed and frustrating crowds roaring outside the gate of his residence. In the society, divisions have deepened, the middle class disappeared and most of Finland’s citizens literally fight to get by. Due to the clash of the economy, the political tensions between the classes have escalated and the society is volatile.

Original title: Roihu. Otava 2021, 525 pp.
Foreign rights: Rights & Brands,

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Ida Pimenoff

©Otto Virtanen

I Wasn't There

Ida Pimenoff: I Wasn’t There

How many times can you abandon someone?

Vera is an artistic thirty-nine-year-old woman, pursuing a career while navigating life as a single parent in Helsinki. As a child, Vera’s father walked out on her, only to start afresh with a new wife and kids – something that Vera has spent years unpacking the effects of with her therapist. When Vera’s partner Aki leaves her for another woman, she is determined to ensure that their son has a happier childhood than she did.

Original title: Kutsu minut. WSOY 2021, 389 pp.
Foreign rights: Bonnier Rights Finland,

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Johanna Venho

©Veikko Somerpuro

The Autumn Book

Johanna Venho: The Autumn Book

A beautiful novel about Tove Jansson.

It is a mist-grey and rush-yellow autumn in 1991. Maria, a young eco-activist, meets the seventy-eight-year-old Tove Jansson on an island surrounded by the sea. It would have been impossible to be both a good artist and a good wife, Tove ponders.

Original title: Syyskirja. WSOY 2021, 280 pp.
Foreign rights: Bonnier Rights Finland,

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