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The Defenceless by Kati Hiekkapelto

The Defenceless

by Kati Hiekkapelto

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Anna Fekete (2)

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Set in Helsinki, this case begins with an old man being run over by a Hungarian au pair. She claims that he was just lying there on the road, his eyes open, and that her car slid on the icy road, and she was powerless to stop it.

The title is the clue that this translated novel is more than just about what on the surface is a road accident. It is also about immigrants and refugees who have come to Finland looking for a better life, and the reality of what they find.

Policewoman Anna Fekete is herself an immigrant and knows well how many of those she deals with from day to day feel. But she has a determination to make the best of life and to get on with things, which many of the victims of crime don't have.

THE DEFENCELESS is the author's second novel and won the best Finnish Crime Novel in 2014 ( )
  smik | Oct 5, 2016 |
It was written before last year’s migrant ‘crisis’ in Europe had news watchers transfixed but that just makes Kati Hiekkapelto appear to have excellent predictive skills in addition to her writing chops. Because I couldn’t help but think what an incredibly timely and topical book THE DEFENCELESS is (and that, Ian Rankin, is why I read crime fiction, not because I am fascinated by evil).

Only the second installment of a series set in northern Finland, the book tackles the subject of immigration from many angles and gives a strong indication that Hiekkapelto is set to walk in the footsteps of writers as diverse as Sjöwall and Wahlöö and Sara Paretsky who choose the crime genre as an overlay for incisive social commentary.

The first person we meet is Sammy; a young man who made his way into the country illegally because, as a Christian, his life was in danger when the Taliban took over his home. His plight, which plays out across the length of the novel, would, surely, make even the iciest heart melt a little as his choices narrow and his future becomes bleaker.

From another angle we watch a grizzled old (well old-ish I guess at 56) policeman tackle the brutalities of an immigrant gang working very hard to gain a foothold in the country as they have done elsewhere in Europe. Esko, the aforementioned policeman, is hard to like as he holds some confronting attitudes but nor can he be dismissed simply as a right-wing reactionary. Not all his views are questionable and even those which are do not stem from evil intent. In short, he is a complicated person, neither all right nor all wrong, just like most real humans and unlike almost everyone with a voice in modern media.

Anna Fekete is surely the poster girl for successful immigration; having arrived in the country as a child when her family had to flee what was Yugoslavia she has stayed on to serve first in the army and now as a policewoman. But she still has strong feelings of being outsider, especially as it looks as though she will be the last of her family to remain in her adoptive home. In this novel she investigates what appears, at first, to be a simple motor vehicle accident and through this is introduced to yet another kind of immigrant. The woman who ran over Vilho Karppinen is a young au pair in the country on a temporary visa, looking to have a bit of fun (and possibly snare a husband) and she soon irritates Anna. The investigation takes a more interesting turn though and exposes yet more sides to the immigration issue.

Unlike most of the so-called commentary I’ve caught concerning the world’s latest refugee crisis THE DEFENCELESS explores a tangential subject in all its complexity, requiring more than sound bites and hand-ringing if things are to improve. In fact it was probably grumpy, sometimes reprehensible Esko who comes closest to a single solution, even if the motivator for his thinking might have been a selfish one.

THE DEFENCELESS is probably a bit too grim to be called enjoyable but I found it a satisfying and thought-provoking read and a great way to kick off my year’s reading.
1 vote bsquaredinoz | Jan 8, 2016 |
Rate a thriller at five stars? That's something I almost never do, but this one is different. To begin with, it's a terrific thriller -- briskly paced, well plotted, with an unusual twist at the end. The story, the second available in English from this Finnish author, is set in a northern Finnish city: the backdrop, in particular the influence of climate, is vividly realized. Most of the characters are interesting and highly individualized (if not always highly likable). The central character is both convincing and appealing. And the writing/translation is supple and clear.
But what gets it that fifth star is something that puts it beyond the usual thriller -- the central theme is right out of today's headlines, and it is treated brilliantly. That theme is refugee immigration into Europe, and the book gives us a 360 degree view of the issue. Our heroine is herself a refugee, though highly "Finnicized", her family having fled to Finland during the Balkan wars of the 1990's. The most obvious suspect is a Pakistani in Finland illegally, while a group of suspects who emerge gradually are members of a Muslim gang. Some of the native Finns are friendly to immigrants, while others are strongly anti-immigrant. And neither immigrants nor anti-immigrants are treated as being entirely good or bad, entirely right or wrong, or at all homogenous. This gave me an inside view of what large-scale Muslim immigration into Europe is like, from the point of view of the immigrants and from the point of view of the native-born. That's a lot more complexity, and a lot more insight, than Iusually get from a thriller. ( )
  annbury | Oct 7, 2015 |
The Defenceless – A Stunning Thriller

Kati Hiekkapelto brings us a second outing for Police Investigator Anne Fekete with a stunning thriller The Defenceless, and easy to see why this was the best Finnish Crime Novel of 2014. This is a brilliantly written Scandi-noir that is at times provocative with a wonderful social conscience that challenges our own prejudices. At the same time as Europe is tearing itself apart over immigrants and how we deal with refugees Kati Hiekkapelto pricks our conscience in this exciting thriller.

An old man is found dead on an ice covered road, and a Hungarian au pair is accused of running him over, Anna Fekete is assigned the investigation and from the beginning she realises that nothing is as it seems. As the investigation grows from a seemingly innocent start becomes increasingly complex where illegal immigration, drugs and murder come to the fore.

Anna’s curmudgeon of a partner Esko is involved in a separate case in which his life is at risk from not only the criminal world but his own body. He has been asked to investigate the Cobras a gang made up of immigrants who are challenging a biker gang on its territory for drugs. The Cobras already gained a reputation across Scandinavia for challenging and taking over territories and are not afraid to leave dead bodies in their wake.

When two teenage girls find a bloody knife in the ever ending snow and ice of northern Finland the two separate cases come together in a way that is not expected. As Anna and Esko continue their investigations even though they may have the law on their side, the law can sometimes be a harsh tool for justice and will justice be done by the end of the book?

Kati Hiekkapelto delivers a strong and powerful investigator who is a tough and powerful character who still cannot define herself, she still sees herself as an immigrant but also Finnish. She also has the same feelings of loneliness many successful career women have in that they have to make sacrifices to be successful and should be personal happiness be really sacrificed on the altar of work life balance.

Kati Hiekkapelto is a brilliant new talent who is seriously good as a thriller writer, her characters continue to develop, who is not afraid to take risks and challenge the reader. Kati Hiekkapelto will continue to get better with her writing she avoids all the usual clichés with crime writing, so everybody comes across as human. The only problem for me with the setting is all that bloody snow and ice, makes me feel cold but even I will put up with the snow if it means I can have more of Anna Fekete....... please! ( )
  atticusfinch1048 | Sep 6, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kati Hiekkapeltoprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hackston, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schrey-Vasara, GabrieleÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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