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They Know Not What They Do

Jussi Valtonen

Winner of the 2014 Finlandia Prize


On the surface, Joe Chayefski has it all. A great job, a beautiful wife and two perfect daughters. But when the lab he works in as a neuroscientist is attacked, Joe is forced to face the past and reconnect with the son he abandoned twenty years earlier.

As Joe struggles to deal with the sudden collision of his two lives, he soon finds he needs to take drastic action to save the people he loves. 

Gripping and suspenseful, They Know Not What They Do skilfully weaves together the big issues of the day- the relationship between science and ethics, and people’s increasing inability to communicate – into an ambitious page-turner of a novel.

  • Publication date: June 7, 2018
  • ISBN: 9781786073532
  • RRP: £11.99
  • Pages: 496
  • Publication date: November 2, 2017
  • ISBN: 9781780749648
  • RRP: £16.99
  • Pages: 496
  • Publication date: November 2, 2017
  • ISBN: 9781780749655
  • RRP: £4.99
  • Pages: 496


‘Classy and engrossing drama.’

Daily Mail

'Smart, slightly futuristic, nicely plotted.'

Mail on Sunday

'A hugely ambitious book. Literary fiction meets sci-fi meets thriller in a gripping exploration of animal rights, the light and dark of new technologies, international academia, and the dynamics within modern families. Excellent.'

Will Dean, author of Dark Pines

'Remarkable... Valtonen’s grip on plot and character is so masterful that his storytelling easily contains his restless speculation about influences on how we live now and where we might end up as our old value systems begin to crumble.'

Anna Paterson, World Literature Today

'A contemporary novel that doesn’t lose sight of perennial dilemmas.'


'Contemporary literature simply doesn’t get better than this. A stunning work.'

Helsingin Sanomat, Finland

'Well-crafted... They Know Not What They Do is a page-turner, skilfully translated by Kristian London.'

Otago Daily Times (New Zealand)

'They Know Not What They Do is neither indulgent, nor self-satisfied, nor glib, but charts its own course toward an understanding of contemporary society and the importance of perspective. And a page turner to boot – huzzah!'

Words Without Borders

'A perfect novel for our time, They Know Not What They Do is a satirical critique of our contemporary infatuation with innovation, fuelled by corporate greed and a desire to do everything faster. With a sympathetic hand, Valtonen skillfully creates a perfect storm of ethical conundrums...all tied into a cautionary tale about a man struggling with the consequences of his decisions.'

Shelf Awareness

'This Scandinavian thriller is the perfect read for long winter nights. Winner of the 2014 Finlandia Prize, They Know Not What They Do weaves family drama and high stakes with chilling results.'


'This hugely ambitious work of contemporary realism offers a dramatic warning about the influence of digital culture.'


‘An engaging and fascinating exploration of the difficulties of modern parenting in the face of social media and technological advancements.’

Guy Bolton, author of The Pictures

Jussi Valtonen

Author page

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