cover image Fishing for the Little Pike

Fishing for the Little Pike

Juhani Karila, trans. from the Finnish by Lola Rogers. Restless, $19 trade paper (350p) ISBN 978-1-63206-343-4

Karila’s rich English-language debut portrays the Finnish region of Lapland as a place where folktales and fairies are part of normal life. Elina is cursed to trek into the swamps every year and catch a magical pike; if she fails, she’ll die. Now, she’s on the run from a homicide detective, who suspects Elina of murder (the victim and the reasons for the detective’s suspicion become disconcertingly clear later in the story). The colorful characters, living and dead, include a local crackpot who worships a god who lives in the sewage tanks, and a mayor possessed by a wraith. Residents of the tiny town don’t go outside after dark because that’s when spirits of diseases and despair roam the streets (one character, named Simo the Shit, is haunted by Tuberculosis, who calls out to him and tries to claim his soul). As the detective makes her way through the region, the details of Elina’s past are revealed, and the curse turns out to be more complicated than it first appears. Karila keeps things fanciful and funny even as the story’s folklore elements descend into the dark and disturbing, thanks to his exuberant embrace of the godforsaken landscape and its inhabitants. This twisted love letter to the rural region leaves a lasting impression. (Aug.)