Publication date
August 2016
Johnny Kniga
Format info
382 pages

Reindeer Mafia


A novel about the Family

When the old reindeer king Jonás-Guhtur Nelihanka grabs his son by the lapels of his leather vest, his heart bleeds. His oldest has donned the insignia of a criminal snowmobile gang and abandoned his father. The family has been torn in two.

Reindeer Mafia is a tale about family and power. The reindeer-rich Nelihanka family rules the fell county of Utsjoki through property grabs and blackmail. In the hands of greedy and unscrupulous men, reindeer husbandry has become a ruthless agribusiness.

The challenger to this Cosa Nostra of the far north emerges from within the family. The oldest son, Jyppyrä, dreams of fraternity, liberty, and reindeer husbandry without the poaching that drives the smaller reindeer-owners to the brink of starvation.

In the Finnish hinterlands, the frontier law rules. The land is equally barren for those in search of a mate. In Reindeer Mafia the womanless backwoods boys find safety in numbers through the Wolverine SC snowmobile club, and under the leadership of Jyppyrä they challenge not only the authority but the livelihood and hegemony of their fathers.

At stake in the clash between two criminal factions is not just the control of the fell village but the future of traditional Sami lifestyle.

Reindeer Mafia will smash all your stereotypes about Lapland and its residents – forever.



2017 shortlisted for the Torch-Bearer Award
2016 Shortlisted for the Clue of the Year Prize


Reading material

English sample
English synopsis
Finnish edition


Praise for the work

Reindeer Mafia is brimming with dynamic, thrilling action from the wildest North. On top of this, it offers an exciting picture of a traditional lifestyle at a turning point, of the bustle of modernity amidst vast nature. At least the thrill of revenge is a renewable resource, giving the strength to withstand the chill of winter, the lords of the south and the media, and even one’s neighbours. Tradition never fades away completely; something always endures, says Mikko-Pekka Heikkinen’s grimacing satire. After all, what could kill evil?” – Vesa Karonen, Helsingin Sanomat newspaper

“The snow falls in October and melts in May. The rest of the time, we just pretend,” writes Mikko-Pekka Heikkinen, sounding for a moment just like Kari Hotakainen. But Heikkinen also sounds like Arto Paasilinna, and his hovel of a story could have been borrowed from something like Game of Thrones. [—] Heikkinen imagines a vivid underworld of Upper Lapland, and although he might not be serious at the level of the story, his expression certainly is. In Reindeer Mafia, the men mostly speak in glances, but their language is harsh. Just like Heikkinen’s.” ­– Kauppalehti Optio magazine

“In Reindeer Mafia, life in Lapland is like something from the Wild West. [—] Mikko-Pekka Heikkinen’s new book Reindeer Mafia flows colourfully and rejoicingly. [—] It is an imaginative frolic of the imagination, exploring Lapland, reindeer herding, biker gangs, the mafia and law and order. [—] Mikko-Pekka Heikkinen continues the strong beginnings of his literary career, with this newest work probably being the best in its class.” – Eero Marttinen, Kaleva newspaper

“Heikkinen’s characters speak Saami and Finnish. The characters are multidimensional, well thought out and interesting. Heikkinen has created such a tapestry as the background for his story of family relations and their strength. His descriptions of nature, verbal skilfulness and stunning depictions of personality are intertwined. The setup and characters are extraordinarily humorous and taken to extremes, but the story is brusque. Although the world of the Saami people ultimately crashes and bangs à la James Bond, themes of love, thirst for power and betrayal flow strongly underneath. You laugh, although you should cry. All of this comes together to create what is unquestionably Mikko-Pekka Heikkinen’s best novel to date.” ­– Anssi Lehtimäki, Pohjalainen newspaper

“Transposing the mafia genre into Lapland conditions already provides a humorous undertone, but in addition to that, Heikkinen injects his story with an unbelievable range of different modern gadgets and phenomena, whose presentation and treatment add an additional layer of comedy to the novel. [–] It’s fun to watch the means different characters use to try to increase their status, especially as Heikkinen’s clever wordplay further maximises the humour. Of course, Reindeer Mafia also has a serious side, with social critique and a smattering of tragedy. [–] The story is sometimes quite a ruckus, but the author keeps hold of the reins, offering loads of entertainment and fantasy. “– Raija Hakala, Lapin Kansa newspaper

” [–] the novel begins to recall a four-act tragedy, where characters are prepared to sacrifice even their own children, the continuation of their bloodline, all for personal gain. Heikkinen’s novel is built on colourful wordplay. “– Päivi Alasalmi, Keskisuomalainen newspaper

“Heikkinen has written a skilful description of the clash between old and new culture in Lapland.” – Matti Tieaho, Kouvolan Sanomat newspaper