A murder mystery buried in family secrets comes to light followed by years of amateur sleuthing. The result is a compelling narrative investigation into the station of women and sex workers in the 1930s.
On a Friday evening in June 1939, Hilda Sofia Hakkarainen was shot dead by a dock worker, Viljo Pulkkonen, as she sat in a restaurant in the small southern port town of Kotka, Finland. At the time, the town was notorious for its vice, its nights illuminated by the glow of cinemas and harbour lights, the strains of jazz filtering into the streets, and thousands of sailors in the market for a Finnish woman’s company onboard ships, in the legal bordellos, or even more precarious venues for the poorest, homeless prostitutes.
In the summer of 2019, Silja Koivisto took a road trip to the town to find out what happened to Hilda and who her great-great aunt really was. Researching previously unpublished police records as well as oral histories and songs, HILDA is Koivisto’s first-hand exploration of the streets of Kotka at night and the women who sold sex, were hunted down by the authorities, sent to labour institutions and hospital for sexually transmitted diseases. The careless women — not their clients — were blamed, telling a lot about the authorities, values and attitudes of society at the time.
Hilda’s story is just one of many, silenced and forgotten. More than eighty years after her death, much has changed, yet too many preconceptions of women remain. Koivisto’s book has received glowing praise and has also been a commercial success.
‘An informative and engrossing work about women’s lives.’ – Kirsi’s Book Club, Finland
‘Compelling.’ – Kirjaluotsi blog, Finland