Follow the Butterfly - Martta Kaukonen - E-Book

Follow the Butterfly E-Book

Martta Kaukonen



'We all have our secrets...' Renowned therapist Clarissa Virtanen is not afraid to look at the darkest side of humanity. Haunted by the death of a young patient, she will do whatever it takes to save the most vulnerable. But when Ida - angry, damaged and seemingly suicidal - walks into her office, Clarissa may have met her match. For Ida has secrets. Murderous secrets, which mark her like a bloodstain. Secrets which drive her to kill. And kill again. Somehow, Clarissa must find the key to unlock her past. So she makes a bargain with Ida - six months to try and stop her taking her own life. But what if she has entered a game more deadly, and more evil, than she could ever imagine?

Sie lesen das E-Book in den Legimi-Apps auf:

von Legimi
zertifizierten E-Readern
(für ausgewählte Pakete)

Seitenzahl: 403

Das E-Book (TTS) können Sie hören im Abo „Legimi Premium” in Legimi-Apps auf:

Mehr Informationen
Mehr Informationen
Legimi prüft nicht, ob Rezensionen von Nutzern stammen, die den betreffenden Titel tatsächlich gekauft oder gelesen/gehört haben. Wir entfernen aber gefälschte Rezensionen.



‘Breathlessly plotted, deviously constructed, and brought to vivid, twisted life by an antiheroine for the ages… An utterly beguiling debut. This isn’t just a thriller you sink your teeth into—it’s a thriller that sinks its teeth right back into you’


‘The premise is highly original and flawlessly executed, with an unexpected, ingenious twist at the end… An utterly compelling, gripping read with an explosive conclusion’


‘Original, intelligent and intriguing – I gulped it down in two sittings’


‘An exciting, pacy page turner. I loved the smoke and mirrors atmosphere, overlain with a sense of poignancy about damaged lives, the power of the imagination to trick us (and to protect us), and the passage of time’


‘A psychological thriller that really gets under your skin’


‘Kaukonen winds the suspense tighter and tighter, one chapter at a time’


‘Fast-paced and vivid… Will satisfy anyone’s hunger for suspense’



5To K, for a book dedicated to you is one that cannot be left unread6


Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.

– nora ephron8


Title PageDedicationEpigraphPart One:The Rorschach TestIdaClarissaArtoIdaClarissaPekkaArtoIdaClarissaArtoIdaClarissaPekkaClarissaPekkaArtoIdaClarissaIdaArtoClarissaIdaClarissaIdaArtoIdaClarissaIdaArtoPart Two:The Beck Depression InventoryClarissaIdaPekkaIdaPekkaArtoPekkaArtoClarissaIdaClarissaArtoClarissaIdaArtoClarissaIdaClarissaPekkaIdaPekkaClarissaPekkaClarissaArtoClarissaIdaArtoClarissaIdaPart Three: Robert Hare’s Pcl-R TestClarissaIdaClarissaIdaClarissaArtoPekkaArtoClarissaIdaClarissaIdaArtoIdaPekkaArtoClarissaIdaArtoClarissaPekkaClarissaIdaPekkaArtoClarissaArtoIdaClarissaIdaPart Four:The Gad-7 Anxiety TestClarissaPekkaClarissaPekkaIdaIdaClarissaIdaIdaIdaIdaClarissaIdaClarissaPekkaIdaClarissaPekkaIdaIdaArtoPekkaClarissaClarissaClarissaIdaArtoIdaIdaIdaClarissaAcknowledgementsAvailable and Coming Soon from Pushkin Vertigo Copyright

Part One





There was too much blood in the room. No, I hadn’t covered the walls with Beatles lyrics scrawled in my victim’s gore like the Manson family. But there was an enormous stain on the rug. It wasn’t heart-shaped but the kind of stain that anybody taking an ink-blot test would describe as a butterfly because they didn’t have the guts to say it looked like a vulva.

I started examining the bloodstain more closely, but my attention was soon drawn to my socks. They were so sticky that they were glued to the soles of my feet. As I stepped closer to the stain, it felt like walking across grass wet from the rain. A set of bloody footprints followed me from the body to the rug. I felt a chill. The stain really did look like the first card in the Rorschach test.

What would Freud have said about this? Can a rug stained with the blood of someone you’ve freshly killed really describe the subconscious? Or should we try to interpret it like an augury? A butterfly means I’m rising into the air? Murder gives you wiiings? If I’d been the one lying on that misogynistic cokehead’s couch in nineteenth-century Vienna, psychoanalytical theory would have turned out quite differently.

Don’t go getting the wrong impression of me now. I’m actually quite meticulous. I don’t usually make a mess. I torture them, then murder them—without leaving a trace. For me this is a matter of honour. The victims’ families never have to splash out 12on an expensive crime-scene clean-up on my account. I couldn’t understand why I’d been so sloppy this time.

I had planned the murder carefully; every last detail was perfectly fine-tuned. I’d spent days thinking about the murder weapon. I always want the weapon to give a clue as to why I chose this particular suit as a victim.

On this occasion, I’d plumped for a filleting knife.

Oh, come on! Do you really need me to spell it out? The knife is one of the classic phallic symbols. What better weapon to thrust into the chest of an incorrigible womanizer who’d been chasing skirt for decades?

So, you see, everything should have been in perfect order, right down to the last brushstroke, but then suddenly chaos took over. I behaved like the worst kind of amateur. I would have to spend considerably longer at the scene than I’d planned. How would I have time to dispose of the body?

I thought for a long time about where to lay my victim to rest. Then I remembered once taking the commuter train from Helsinki to Kerava; as I stared out of the dusty window at the dreary landscapes passing by, I’d noticed a small pond behind the station at Savio.

A quick online search told me that the pond was located on the site of an old rubber factory that had closed down back in 1985. It was so overgrown nowadays that nobody in their right mind would want to swim in it. If I dumped the body there, I could save myself the bother of digging a shallow grave.

I would transport my victim’s body to the pond in the boot of his own car, then once at the shore I’d spread out a tarpaulin I’d rolled up inside a sports bag, lift the body onto the canvas sheet, cut it up with a saw, then sink the tarpaulin, the saw and the dismembered body parts into the pond, abandon the car 13outside Savio station and catch the commuter train back to Helsinki.

For me, disposing of the body was always the most difficult part of committing a murder. Luckily, adrenalin gives you the kind of superpowers that had allowed me to haul men much bigger than myself into the boot of a car and an early grave.

Now I had to battle against time, if I intended to carry out my plan before anyone noticed the victim was missing. For the first time on one of my murderous escapades, I had the feeling that I couldn’t trust myself. My heart started to race. A panic attack was all I needed. I had to calm myself down. But fear had already consumed my mind. This kind of sloppiness could only lead to one thing: getting caught.

My victim’s home was just as I’d expected. It was the kind of place you see featured in lifestyle shows. Even if you watched the whole show, you still wouldn’t be able to describe the apartment. You’d just have a vague memory of all the white surfaces that the presenters swore were in fact ten different shades. A white rug, white sofa, white curtains, white bed, white bedside table, then, as a daring little contrast, a bookshelf verging on grey, but still white. Am I the only one that thinks of the padded cells at the psychiatric hospital when I see the colour white? That being said, right now my victim’s clinical bedroom was more like an operating theatre. I looked at the mess I’d made and swore under my breath.

All of a sudden, my attention was drawn to a print hanging on the wall. Live Laugh Love. The only people who resort to fortune-cookie aphorisms like that are those who can’t properly express their emotions unless someone else puts them into words on their behalf. I knew perfectly well how to process my emotions: by killing. 14

The print made me think of the Post-it notes that people leave around the house to remind demented relatives what different objects are called. I was convinced my victim hadn’t chosen this print himself but that it must have been a gift from a mistress many years his junior.

I stared at the print, then gave a start. My heart skipped a beat.

Inside the O of the word ‘Love’ was a red dot.

I hurried closer to the wall. Yes, it was blood. How could it have spattered this far?

Everything had been going so well at first, and now this: a total disaster!

Getting into the apartment was a piece of cake. I’d been watching my victim long enough that his breathtaking stupidity had become all too apparent. I’d learnt that he kept a spare key in the communal garden. Every time he left home, he hid it in among the sunflower seeds in the bird feeder. His naivety was almost touching.

My victim spent his nights on one of the status symbols of the 1980s. This bed must surely be one of the last of its kind. I can thank my lucky stars I leaned an elbow on it as I started wielding the filleting knife, because it was only then I noticed that it was in fact a waterbed. If I’d accidentally thrust the knife right through my victim’s body and the tip of the blade had nicked the surface of the mattress, gallons of water would have flooded the downstairs apartment and the neighbours would have run upstairs and banged on the door.

My victim was so fast asleep that I was able to stand there watching him for minutes. What’s the rush, I thought? I always like to make sure that I need to kill a particular victim. I don’t want to have second thoughts once it’s already too late.

But, if I’m honest, I’ve never regretted killing any of my victims. Not even when some of them have begged me to spare 15their lives. Least of all then. It’s something to be proud of. My victims go through such a rigorous vetting process that all those who make it to the final round have well and truly earned their place.

I’ve heard it all, everything from faint whimpering and bestial screams to mumbled monologues that I couldn’t understand a word of. I’ve had ‘Our Father’ and the Ten Commandments, particularly the fifth. But I’ve always stuck by my decision.

Then it’s knife out, a one-two into the chest, and so on and so forth. I doubt you’re as perverse as me, so you probably don’t want to know any more than that. You’re only thinking about the most important question: what does it feel like to take a life?

It feels like nothing.

And it felt like nothing now too.

Everything repeats in exactly the same way. Every time, I wish it was different, that I might burst into life, that I might suck the energy out of my victim. That I might find a reason to carry on living. That I could experience power, that all my problems would be solved, that everything would finally change, that my actions might have a meaning, any meaning at all. That I might experience a revelation, have the final word. Some kind of catharsis. Anything. But there is nothing.


But still I try, over and over again. This one will be different, I tell myself, because I killed him in the morning or because I killed him with an axe, because I killed him quickly, because I killed him without torturing him, because I killed him silently, or because I laughed as I killed him. Because he deserved to die. Because he wanted to die. Because he would have died anyway.

But nothing ever changes.

The feeling is always the same: there is no feeling. 16

Maybe that’s why I decided to stop all the killing. Or maybe I was just bored.

This will be the last time. This one will be my last victim. Imagine, what an honour, though one for which he would never hear the fanfares.

I barely had time to think the matter through properly before I started laughing. Me, stop killing? Yeah, right! Then what would I do? Killing was the only thing I had left. Without it, I would be empty, adrift.

Every human being has an identity. I didn’t even have the building blocks of a personality. I was a blank slate, a barrel, empty and echoing. I had to paint my own portrait.

Being a serial killer was my whole identity.

And no matter how much I wanted to, how could I ever bring myself to stop?

The bloody butterfly in front of me answered on my behalf.

I would go to therapy.




Retired finance minister Uolevi Mäkisarja of the National Coalition Party disappeared last night from his home in the Kilta area of Kerava.

Mäkisarja served as chancellor of the exchequer in the government that steered the country through the recession of the early 1990s. In particular, he is remembered for keeping a tight rein on public finances and for having little sympathy for ‘scroungers’, as he often called the unemployed.

Mäkisarja was reported missing by his companion, the actress Mirri Kuuramo. Ms Kuuramo arrived at the former minister’s residence for a prearranged visit, but Mäkisarja was nowhere to be found, at which point Ms Kuuramo contacted local police.

Mäkisarja’s car was found on Sunday evening in the car park outside Savio train station.

80-year-old Mäkisarja is 5’7’’ tall and weighs around 11st. He has brown eyes, dark-brown hair and a moustache. He was last seen wearing a dark suit and grey tie.

‘The police take the disappearance of an elderly man very seriously indeed, and we will be instigating a full search at the first opportunity,’ commented Reija Jalkanen, commissioner of the Eastern Uusimaa Constabulary.

The police ask members of the public to report possible sightings of Mr Mäkisarja to the Eastern Uusimaa Constabulary by telephone.



It all started with a telephone call. It was the first time I heard Ida’s voice, just a faint whisper, as though she were calling from beyond the grave.

It was a Wednesday, 2nd January 2019, almost eleven o’clock in the evening. I was sitting on the living-room sofa watching an episode of the current-affairs programme Newsreel that I’d recorded on the digibox the night before. I’d been a guest on the New Year’s Day show, and I was excited to see how my performance had gone.

I’d had so much work to get on with that I hadn’t had time to sit down and watch the recording, but now I finally got myself settled in front of the television in the living room and casually swung my feet up onto the coffee table to get comfy. Fifteen minutes into the show, I gave a sigh of relief: everything had gone perfectly.

Sitting on the sofa in that TV studio, I sounded like an expert.

We women always have to prove ourselves and show that we’re competent, whereas for men this is always taken for granted. Right from the start I’d convinced the presenter of my authority. He was enthralled and nodded at my every word.

But, for women, expertise is a double-edged sword. Men are afraid of intelligent women. I’d realized long ago that I was just too much for them.

Too smart, too talented, too qualified, too competent.

Too threatening. 19

Luckily, there was one way of compensating all these men for the fact that my intelligence threatened their fragile self-esteem. I shrunk, made myself as tiny as Thumbelina, by dressing as sexily as I could.

A sexy look calmed most men. It reminded them that although they were no match for me intellectually, at the end of the day even I—like all women—was just a piece of meat.

In preparation for my appearance in the Newsreel studio, I had—as was my wont—trussed myself up in my best feminine armour. I was sporting a pink Versace miniskirt, which was so short it was almost lewd, and a tight rosé blouse by Chanel, its top buttons left undone so as not to leave anything to the imagination.

I stared at myself on the TV screen and gave a satisfied smile. I snatched up the bowl I’d placed on the coffee table, picked out the biggest barbeque-flavoured crisp I could find and stuffed it into my mouth. Whole.

My phone’s ringtone made me start.

Slightly peeved at the interruption, I pressed Pause on the remote control and fumbled on the table for my phone. An unknown number. Probably telesales. But they didn’t usually call this late. Perhaps it was a new client.

I crunched the crisp and hurriedly swallowed it.

‘Clarissa Virtanen,’ I said as I picked up.

Silence. Maybe there was a problem with the line or the caller hadn’t heard my name. I tried again.

‘Clarissa Virtanen.’

The silence continued. I was about to hang up when I heard that faint whisper.

‘Hi. It’s Ida.’

I didn’t know anyone by that name.

‘Hello,’ I answered. 20

‘I’m looking for a therapist. Got any free slots?’

‘Thank you for reaching out to me. My first free slot is at nine o’clock tomorrow morning.’


‘Hello? Are you still there?’

‘Yes. Tomorrow, nine o’clock. Suits me.’

I gave her my office address and said goodnight.

And that’s how it all started.

The game whose rules she never told me.

What is worst of all?

The sleepless nights, the shame, my scolding conscience? The choir of self-accusations that even at night I can’t quieten down? The thoughts endlessly spinning through my mind? The nagging regret, gnawing away at my soul? The voice in my head mocking me? The fear that this will continue forever, that I’ll never be at peace again? The fact that I’ve lost everything?

No. The fact that I long for her day and night.



I’ve been racking my brains to think whether I’d ever heard the name Clarissa Virtanen before. It was highly likely, because she was always parading herself in public like some kind of latter-day Pussy Galore. Meanwhile, I’d been languishing in my own alcohol-fuelled bubble and hadn’t paid her the slightest attention, though as a reporter I guess I’m supposed to keep up with current affairs and follow people in the public eye. But let’s agree the first I officially heard about her was from Irmeli Lahjametsä, editor in chief at Helsinki Today.

I’m pretty sure it was the 3rd day of January 2019. I suppose you’re wondering why the date stuck in my head so vividly. Well, it was six years to the day since my beloved wife Marja had passed away.

I was sitting at the Quill and Parchment, a pub in downtown Helsinki popular with the editorial staff at Helsinki Today, waiting for day to melt into night.

I don’t believe in the spirit world any more than I believe in ghosts. But that afternoon I had the distinct feeling that Marja was trying to contact me from beyond the grave and tell me something. It wasn’t a pleasant sensation; in fact, it was chilling.

Perhaps Marja had taken a secret with her to the grave, something she now wanted to share with me but that I didn’t care to listen to.

And there was someone else tormenting my mind too, someone I would love forever but who I’d never meet again. Someone who gave my life its meaning. 22

The staccato clack of high heels woke me from my fit of nostalgic melancholy. My eyes were suddenly wide open, and I found myself instinctively looking for an escape route. Too late. A figure appeared in front of me and grabbed hold of me.

Her embrace was warm. After a moment’s confusion, I saw that it was Irmeli, the same as ever, only now she was wearing a new wig; her long blonde locks had made way for a tangle of black curls.

An intense course of chemotherapy had taken Irmeli’s hair, but the gravity of her illness hadn’t affected her steadfast dedication to her work. The new look suited her better than the blonde one. Framed in dramatic black, her violet eyes seemed to light up.

Those eyes alighted on the collection of empty pint glasses in front of me on the counter. It wasn’t hard to know what she was thinking.

I surreptitiously tried to catch my reflection in the mirror hanging behind the bar. It was hard to believe that people used to call me handsome when I was younger. My prominent cheekbones were nothing but a memory; now limp flesh sagged in their place. I’d broken my once noble nose in a drunken struggle with the fridge door, and the scar running along the left edge of my nose was a constant reminder of it. When I was younger, my hair was thick as a horse’s. Now it had thinned so much that the straggly wisps I’d tied into a ponytail didn’t so much resemble a lion’s mane as a rat’s tail. My green eyes, which used to have such a sparkle in them when I was a young man, were now as murky as ponds overgrown with algae.

This summer I would turn fifty, but my reflection showed there was little cause for celebration.

Irmeli looked up from the pint glasses. Our eyes met, and her initial irritation turned to pity. I’d avoided another lecture—this time. 23

Shortly after Marja’s death, Helsinki Today had sacked me because of my drinking. Despite this, I’d been working for the paper as a freelance reporter, and Irmeli still gave me the occasional assignment.

‘Arto, it’s a good thing I bumped into you. There’s a story I’d like you to work on. I’m about to meet an interviewee, but there’s just enough time to brief you.’

I wasn’t especially interested in work. Still, I had to keep Irmeli happy because she’d forgiven me for so much. Too much, in fact.

I tried to muster a little enthusiasm.

‘It’s just the kind of story you’ll like.’

Irmeli used this same mantra to sell all her ideas to her poor unsuspecting victims.

‘A focus piece on a really interesting character. This could be award-winning stuff.’

What else would it be? I hated doing interviews. To be honest, I loathed my work in general. I loathed my life too. And I had no aspirations of winning a Pulitzer any time soon.

‘The front page for the new lifestyle supplement is still free.’

Irmeli was well ahead of schedule. The lifestyle supplement wasn’t due to come out until the summer. She must have been thinking of someone whose interview would go on the inner pages, if they wanted someone else on the cover of the summer issue. On the plus side, at least I’d have plenty of time to conduct the actual interview.

‘I want you to interview the therapist Clarissa Virtanen.’

Why did Irmeli want me of all people to interview a therapist?

She slipped a piece of paper into my hand. On it was a telephone number.

If I could travel back in time, I’d take my lighter out of the pocket of my leather jacket, crumple up that scrap of paper and burn it.



I should have warned you right away: I’m a liar. The compulsive, pathological kind. Even when I’m talking about something completely insignificant.

If you ask me whether I’m more of a cat person or a dog person, I’ll tell you I prefer dogs, though in actual fact I love cats and can’t stand dogs; they smell when their coats get wet, they bring grit indoors on their filthy paws, and their constant barking really gets on my nerves. But still I’ll tell you I love dogs. Why? I’ve been lying for so long that I’ve forgotten how to tell the truth.

And when you lie long enough, truth and falsehood start to look very much alike. Most people agree it’s a good idea to be able to tell the two apart. It’s noble and morally upright. I’m not so sure. Lies are my truth.

Besides, I don’t believe in honesty. Most people have lied to themselves so much that they’re incapable of telling other people the truth. A divorce is always the other person’s fault, problems at work are always the boss’s fault, and if your daughter ends up a self-harming anorexic, whose fault is that? Not yours, that’s for sure.

Besides, when you lie for a living, you get very good at it.

If I wanted to, I could make you believe anything at all.


Well, now that you know my vices, you’d best be on your guard.

I told you I was going to stop killing people. Ha! I never had the slightest intention of that. 25

Humans are lazy creatures. Ask any passer-by whether they’re good at their job, and the answer will undoubtedly be yes. Why would anybody carry on doing something that requires a concerted effort? People want everything to be as easy as possible. I’m only good at two things: torturing and killing. And when I say good, I mean damn good. So why would I stop now?

But there was another reason I wanted to start going to therapy.

I was afraid of getting caught.

There’s one thing that unites all male serial killers: they like playing cat and mouse with the police. They leave little clues scattered around the crime scene. For them, the act itself is only half the enjoyment. They get off on the thought that they’re smarter than the police. The victims are nothing but pawns. The real battle of wills is between the murderer and the investigators.

I didn’t give a shit about the cops and their theories. They should thank me—after all, I’d been providing them with fascinating cases for years now.

Somewhere in Finland, there must have been a cop who had dedicated her life to solving the murders I’d committed. Maybe she was running a latex-gloved finger across the evidence from the crime scene, maybe staring at the photos of suspects pinned to the wall in her office and trying to work out which of them was cold-blooded enough to be a serial killer. Or maybe she’d given up altogether, taken sick leave and already trained up her replacement.

But so what? She was just doing her job. I would never meet her, and it was just as well. She was just a figment of my imagination, a ghost in police uniform. But it was as I stood there staring at the bloodied butterfly fluttering across the rug on my victim’s bedroom floor, that I first considered the very real possibility of being caught. The thought stuck in my mind like chewing gum. 26

I could already imagine myself in solitary confinement—yes, that’s where I’d end up, again and again, because there’s no way I’d get along with the other prisoners, and my fists, nails and teeth would make damn sure they knew it.

I would do anything to avoid such a terrible fate.

Finland is too small a country for serial killers. To start with, there aren’t very many of us here. As soon as you’ve acquired a taste for murder, you get caught. Of course, I’d broken all the records long ago, but it was nothing to brag about. It was only a matter of time until someone at the National Bureau of Investigation worked it all out. Then my carelessly concocted alibis would be no use to me. That would be the end.

Luckily, we have a Get Out of Jail Free card in our country.

In court, I could demand that I be forced to undergo a psychological examination. Some poor psychiatrist would have the pleasure of digging around in the deepest recesses of my mind. This examination would then conclude that, at the time of the murders, I was non compos mentis and could not therefore be held criminally responsible for my actions—in layman’s terms, that I was stark raving mad. Instead of going to jail, those found to be criminally insane are sent to a psychiatric unit. There I would experience a miracle recovery, be sent home and get straight back to my favourite activity.

And so, I’d decided to err on the side of caution; I would look for a therapist who was a gullible fool with too much empathy for their own good, and if I did get caught, this therapist would write me such a heart-rending character reference that the court couldn’t possibly deem me criminally responsible.

Ingenious, don’t you think?

There was just one flaw in my plan: how would I cope with the therapy? 27

People see their therapist like a messiah, as if therapists selflessly gave up their time to help their clients, though the very name ‘professional guidance counsellor’ should leave us in no doubt about what they’re up to.

The therapist is sitting opposite you for one reason only. Try getting them to help if you haven’t got 90 euros in your wallet to shell out or a referral from the benefits office covering expenses for psychotherapeutic rehabilitation. The soft couch, the sycophantic praise, the life guidance—all this will be taken away if you can’t hand over the cash.

The empathetic eyes, the compassionate expressions and the warm, motherly body language are all the result of years, decades of practice. You shouldn’t let this fool you and you shouldn’t take it personally.

As you can see, I had no illusions that my therapist would actually be interested in my story. The main thing was that she could be easily led. She would have to believe in my innocence so profoundly that she was prepared to testify in court on my behalf, if I ever ended up in the dock.

Very well. I’ll admit, I did hope to see at least some kind of genuine reaction on my therapist’s face when I told my story, a flicker of anything at all. I wasn’t looking for any particular emotion. It could have been disgust or admiration; I didn’t care.

I’m always fascinated by my victims’ reactions. Human emotions are only on full display when you have to fight for your life. I suppose there must be some residual humanity in me after all. I want to witness other people’s emotions.

Besides, I thought, if my story touched my therapist, I was sure she would do anything for me.

Now, much later, I realize I’ve only got myself to blame. I thought I’d found just the right person, but I was to learn the hard way that I’d been gravely mistaken. 28

Clarissa Virtanen.

I first spotted that smarmy poodle on a TV talk show. She was sitting half-naked on the studio couch, writhing like a cobra dancing to a snake-charmer’s melody.

No matter how stupid the jokes the presenter cracked, she smirked and giggled so much that I thought she might piss herself there and then.

What a bimbo. She was nothing but a ditzy airhead, a Barbie doll.

Just the kind of therapist I was looking for.

Nonetheless, I made an error of judgement for which I will never forgive myself.

I thought she would just listen and wouldn’t want to get involved in the course of events.

I know she wants to tell her own side of the story too.

And she’ll stop at nothing to try and shut me up.



If it weren’t for my husband Pekka, I wouldn’t have been able to relax after work. He always insisted that I leave work behind me when I closed the office door for the evening. There was no question of me even flicking through my papers after finishing work for the day.

In truth, I was happy with Pekka’s rule. If he hadn’t been there, I would have spent endless amounts of time wallowing in my clients’ problems.

If you want to read things into my relationship with Pekka, meanings that simply aren’t there, be my guest! But no, I never tried to analyse him.

However, Pekka didn’t know that I often stayed up through the night, pondering my patients’ difficulties over a glass of red wine. I would sit in the kitchen in my silk dressing gown and linen slippers sipping my wine until morning.

Her Highness kept me company. I’d taken in the mongrel cat a few winters ago. She’d started nudging my ankles as I was standing in the snow waiting for the bus. She had a bloody scratch across her face that looked like it had come from another cat’s claw. When I picked her up, she started purring there and then. It was love at first sight.

Her Highness enjoyed being able to spend time alone with me in the wee hours of the morning. She paced between my legs and meowed. 30

I liked the way the wine relaxed me, until it was time to start the next day and face all the problems from which I’d managed to take a bottle of wine’s distance during the night.

I know there’s no use worrying about such things. It’s unprofessional. I can’t imagine any of my colleagues sitting up all night, ruminating over how to prevent a patient’s divorce or how to help clients overcome their depression. A professional ought to be able to keep their work and private lives separate.

I was too empathetic for this profession.



I admired Clarissa because she had dedicated her life to helping people who had run aground. It seemed she almost felt guilty that she had managed to stay afloat while her patients were still submerged, thrashing about in the murky water.

I wasn’t brave enough to look darkness in the eye for a living.

I’m certain that most of Clarissa’s patients recovered, or at least that their quality of life was dramatically improved, specifically because of her therapy.

How many of us can say we do a job that actually makes a difference?

Clarissa had a habit of popping open a bottle of champagne every time she successfully saw a patient through a course of therapy. She would stand out on our patio and spray the champagne into the air like a Formula 1 driver on the podium. The rest, she poured into crystal champagne flutes and savoured one sip at a time.

She kept all the champagne corks in a large wicker basket. At the beginning of her career, she had difficulty leaving work matters at work; she was constantly worrying about things. She tried a number of relaxation techniques to resolve this, until she realized that neither crochet nor origami gave her soul the respite it needed.

As a constant reminder of these ill-fated attempts, an unfinished macramé wall hanging lay in the corner of the living room where 32she had thrown it in frustration. Her only successful handcrafting project was the wicker basket reserved for her champagne corks, and the secret to that was that I had finished weaving it for her. It was already full to the brim with corks.

But the morning after, the party was over and there was already another client on her couch begging for help. What does it say about the supposed ‘happiest country in the world’ that there’s always a queue of patients at the door? Clarissa couldn’t possibly take on all the clients desperate for help, though she worked overtime without ever making a fuss.

Most people in the social-care sector work themselves to the bone on the minimum wage without ever hearing a word of thanks. Clarissa wasn’t exactly making a fortune, but she was respected within her profession all the more.

She was the most acclaimed expert on sexual violence and abuse in Finland. She had given expert statements in countless newspaper articles, but it was the #MeToo movement that really made her name. Once the movement got underway, not a week passed without some media outlet asking for her views and opinions.

She genuinely cared about her patients, perhaps even a little too much. At home, we didn’t discuss her patients. Of course, Clarissa was bound by a duty of confidentiality, so she would never tell me any of their personal details. Still, it was important to me that during her free time she was able to forget about her patients’ problems and focus on her own life instead.

It never occurred to me that I ought to be jealous of her patients.

I believed in our marriage.

I trusted my wife.

Famous last words.



Irmeli’s interviewee—a young visual artist who had just landed a private exhibition at Kiasma, the Museum of Contemporary Art—flounced up to the bar of the Quill and Parchment and gripped Irmeli in a tight embrace. She said a quick goodbye and hurried off to order herself and the artist a round of drinks.

I decided to do some background research on Clarissa Virtanen right away. I was always either drunk or hungover, so I wouldn’t necessarily be in a better frame of mind later on than I was sitting there swaying on my bar stool.

I took out my laptop and started googling Clarissa.

Three-quarters of an hour later, I’d read everything there was to read about her. Two things became immediately apparent: she was only too happy to give interviews, but she never talked about her private life. Every reporter’s nightmare.

Clarissa Cristal Virtanen, 50, had been working as a therapist for twenty-one years. She was happy to comment publicly, not only on her own field of expertise, but on other associated subjects too, such as bullying in the workplace, narcissism or divorce.

When she was interviewed in a professional capacity, Clarissa was analytical and to the point. Her train of thought was clear and insightful. She was a tireless defender of the rights of women and girls and didn’t seem to care how people reacted to her views.

She wasn’t afraid to present controversial opinions. Unlike most experts, Clarissa never tried to wriggle her way out of 34things or duck a difficult question; her answers were always direct and sometimes even deliberately provocative. For instance, in a recent essay for Science Monthly, she claimed that the authorities were reluctant to get involved in cases of the sexual abuse of minors.

‘The Finnish state should officially apologize to all victims of paedophilia, just as it did in 2016 to those foster kids mistreated while in the care of the Child Protection Agency,’ she argued.

‘Instead of protecting victims, Finnish law protects paedophiles. Finland cannot claim to be a civilized welfare state until it takes responsibility for every act of sexual violence committed against a minor.

‘The law should be amended so that other adults, who knew about these crimes but did not report them to the authorities, can be prosecuted as accessories.’

I remembered this essay had sparked heated public debate, but I didn’t realize it was Clarissa who had written it.

This memory lapse didn’t surprise me. Alcohol had flushed far more important things into the abyss of oblivion.

Clarissa’s opinions were so incendiary that they were easy to turn into headlines and snappy soundbites. It was no wonder the journalistic profession seemed so enthralled by her.

Though Clarissa refused to talk about her private life in public, she would turn up to the opening of an envelope given half the chance. If the gossip columns were anything to go by, she was friends with a good many celebrities. She was a familiar sight at book launches and invitation-only screenings of new movies. She could regularly be spotted in women’s lifestyle magazines, popping up behind some famous etiquette expert in an enormous sun hat or lurking behind a TV-presenter couple about to cut their wedding cake. 35

I wasn’t surprised that Clarissa was so protective of her private life. In this respect, she was a typical celebrity expert. They never breathe a word about their personal affairs. Instead, interviews are supposed to list their merits and theories, and the reporter has to remember to mention all the prizes, accolades and honourable titles the interviewee has amassed over the span of their career.

But I was an old fox; I could pull the wool over her eyes.

Some reporters are nervous about interviewing psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists. I suppose they must be worried that one way or another they will end up on the therapist’s couch and regress back to their childhood. I find these kinds of fears ridiculous.

I wondered whether Clarissa was a competent enough therapist to solve my problems too. How would she react if I told her I had ruined the most important relationship in my life?

Longing seemed to gnaw away at my bones.

She was so close, but still out of my reach. And she had no way of knowing that I still thought about her all the time.



There’s one thing I’ve forgotten to tell you. The truth is, Clarissa wasn’t my first therapist. I’d been sitting on threadbare couches, wooden stools and sagging armchairs ever since I was ten years old.

One day my behaviour simply changed, and my parents never worked out why.

At the age of ten, I was sent to see a child psychiatrist. He only agreed to see me once.

I was normal, apparently.

My parents were relieved that my treatment ended before it had even properly got going. The things we didn’t talk about didn’t exist.

The town where I grew up was so small that everybody knew everybody else’s business. My parents were worried someone might start gossiping that their darling daughter had ended up in care.

I’ve already told you the colour white makes me think of the psychiatric ward, haven’t I? At age fourteen, I ended up in the children’s wing of the psychiatric hospital. I’d been suffering from anorexia for years.

My skeletal figure aroused horrified admiration wherever I went. ‘If only I was that thin,’ one of my classmates sighed enviously. ‘Just not ill,’ she clarified. After all, all women and girls want to be thin. But the difference is we anorexics don’t count how many pounds we need to lose to get into bikini shape; we count how many it will take to kill us. 37

You know what the funniest thing is?

Everybody thinks they’ve had a relatively normal childhood. Always. Regardless of what it was actually like.

I defended my parents to the psychiatrists at the hospital too. They were only doing their best! Anybody would have done the same!

The fact that I was in such a bad way wasn’t a reflection on my childhood or my parents; it was a reflection on me.

Once I was an adult, my father took me—against my will—to see a psychiatrist at a private clinic. He recommended a course of psychoanalysis. The traditional lying-on-the-couch kind, that is.

I wasn’t remotely interested in any archaeological digging in the recesses of my mind.

The psychiatrist freely admitted that his competence wasn’t up to solving my problems. He chose his words carefully, but I could read what he really meant between the lines.

He didn’t want to take responsibility for my suicide.



I’m flailing around in the deepest recesses of my mind trying to recall our first meeting. Could I have prevented what happened? This might sound ludicrous, but I’m certain of it: the minute Ida walked into my surgery, my subconscious started trying to tell me exactly what was going on.

But I didn’t listen.

I have a habit of taking notes on each patient’s treatment programmes and keeping their documents in individual folders in the filing cabinet in my office.

Ida’s folder contains only a few sheets of A4. Some of them are filled with notes; others only have a phrase here and there. On some occasions I didn’t take any notes at all.

In other words, these papers are no use whatsoever. You try and remember the most important events of your life without notes!

I can only imagine how Ida would laugh if she knew of my plight.

I couldn’t possibly have guessed that a run-of-the-mill patient record would become a valuable piece of evidence used to prove… well, what exactly?

Not my innocence, at any rate. There’s no point in trying to deny it any more.

Maybe I’m not trying to prove anything. Explain, more like. All I can ask is that you try to understand me. I fear even that might be impossible. 39

I’ll remember that gaze forever. Ida reached out her hand and looked me in the eyes. Her eyes were dark blue, so dark that in the dim light of my surgery, they looked almost black. If you’ll allow me to wax lyrical for a moment, they reminded me of a murky ocean with unimaginable riddles concealed in its depths.

Her gaze was defiant. It was as though she was challenging me to a childish staring contest to see which of us blinked first.

Ida saw right through me. To my other clients, I was first and foremost a mirror. In that mirror, they saw whatever they wanted to see. To some of them, I was a mother who had never valued them but showed disdain through her every gesture; to others I was a father who had abandoned them at the very moment they needed his paternal protection. But with Ida, I couldn’t fall back on my usual professional role.

When we shook hands for the first time, I felt as though countless things happened in that one fleeting instant. They say a person’s life flashes in front of their eyes at the moment of death. I had that exact feeling.

I was ready to sacrifice everything. How ridiculous is that!

This must all feel a bit confusing to you. I’ve done nothing but rack my brains to think what went wrong. Now I know the answer. It was all because of a misunderstanding, because things weren’t quite as I’d imagined.

I’d understood everything wrong, right from the outset. Nothing was what it seemed at first glance. Neither that first glance nor anything else.

Ida always had the upper hand, though I thought I had everything under control. She was pulling my strings like a marionette.

I thought the same rules applied to her as applied to all my other clients.

Therapy is all about the art of illusion. Clients must come to 40believe that the ball is in their court, while in truth the therapist is always responsible.

Ida turned this paradigm upside down. I was in her grip and couldn’t wriggle free.

In fact, I didn’t even realize I was her prisoner.



Once I decided I’d spent enough time rummaging through Clarissa’s past, I turned my attention to the drink again. I ordered a pint and nursed it at the bar, which I’d been propping up from the moment the Quill and Parchment had opened that morning. All day I’d been trying to keep my grief at bay, but now it was forcing its way into my mind so powerfully that I couldn’t fight it off.

I decided to continue Marja’s memorial celebration at home.