Publication date
September 2023
Format info
352 pp

The Shadow Sonata

Valon ja pimeän sonaatit

A magnetic novel about fateful choices and a cruel crime that gives rise to an unlikely friendship in this suspenseful new novel from an acclaimed literary voice.

“When a person realises that their life is threatened, their whole life flashes before their eyes at ultra-speed. In my eyes, it is the future rather — as it could have been.”

In the summer of 1993, a thirteen-year-old schoolboy, Mikael Helenius, is kidnapped. Ten months later he is found alive, an empty drink bottle containing an adder clutched under his arm. The media goes into a frenzy over the so-called Snake Boy case, but Mikael has lost the ability to talk, parsing his thoughts and emotions through playing piano while the details of his abduction remain a question mark, like the clef-like coils of a snake.

Twenty-five years later, journalist Saara Martel leaves Paris to return to her small Ostrobothnian hometown of Teerimäki to lick her wounds after a fall from professional grace and the collapse of her marriage. It is not so much her return to the parish that sparks the locals’ curiosity as that of a shadowy figure, a man calling himself Mikko Brander with a snake tattoo around his neck and in whom Saara recognises someone from long ago. Mikael has returned, but why? Saara is determined to find out, and with it she must face up to the memory of a fateful choice she made all those years ago.

Moving in the structure of a sonata, from allegro to rondo, Tiina Laitila Kälvemark’s elegant prose builds a propulsive and beautiful story about a crime with far-reaching consequences, the power of music, and a rare friendship that emerges from it, bringing to mind Linda Olsson’s Astrid & Veronika, Stina Jackson’s The Silver Road, and Kerstin Ekman’s rendering of the relationship between humans and nature in her widely-admired novel, Blackwater.


Finnish Edition
Sample Translation 110 pp
Author Letter


‘The novel’s language shines like diamonds in a snowdrift, the story is captivating and leaves a lasting impression.Kulttuuritoimitus, Finland

‘A rich book about human relationships and a suspenseful mystery. Seura magazine, Finland

Laitila Kälvemark is one of our most unique/ distinguished prose writers. Living abroad longterm has brought stylistic perspective and freedom of expression.’ – Esko Karppanen, Kaleva newspaper, Finland

‘A heartbreakingly beautiful novel about the power of friendship and music.’ – ‘The Shadow Sonata’ featured as book of the week in Anna magazine, Finland

‘The reader will find themselves in a suspense as to how the novel ends […] A pleasing reading experience.’ – Kulttuuritoimitus, Finland

‘A densely atmospheric and gripping novel…This beautiful novel shows how meaningful and far-reaching it can be for a child that even one person sees the loneliness of another and reaches across it.’ – Kirjaluotsi, Finland

‘Laitila Kälvemark has a remarkable skill for portraying the innermost feelings of people who have suffered hardships in a realistic and humane way […] A multidimensional work that my words don’t do enough justice in praising it. I would encourage everyone to read this novel.’ Sananmukaisesti blog, Finland

‘One of my favorite books! […] The novel is a beautiful combination of questions of the past, memories, the meaning of choices, traumas and friendships.’Kirja hyllyssä blog