The Defenceless

the defenceless

The Defenceless
by Kati Hiekkapelto

When an old man is found dead on the road – seemingly run over by a Hungarian au pair – police investigator Anna Fekete is certain that there is more to the incident than meets the eye. As she begins to unravel an increasingly complex case, she’s led on a deadly trail where illegal immigration, drugs and, ultimately, murder threaten not only her beliefs, but her life. Anna’s partner Esko is entrenched in a separate but equally dangerous investigation into the activities of an immigrant gang, where deportation orders and raids cause increasing tension and result in desperate measures by gang members – and the police themselves. Then a bloody knife is found in the snow, and the two cases come together in ways that no one could have predicted. As pressure mounts, it becomes clear that having the law on their side may not be enough for Anna and Esko.

Anna Fekete, police officer, is investigating a man found dead in the road. Her colleague, Esko Niemi has a separate investigation into gang violence involving drugs and illegal immigrants. The two investigations come together unexpectedly when a bloodied knife is found in the woods.

What turns this book into a great novel is the characters, they are very bit as important as the plot. Whilst reading, I kept being reminded of Henry David Thoreau’s quote: “most men lead lives of quiet desperation…”

Anna Fekete lives and works in Finland but hails from the Hungarian part of Serbia, and she is lost.She has no clue as to where she belongs or what she should call home. Home as she knew it, Yugoslavia, doesn’t even exist anymore. So for all she feels she doesn’t really belong in Finland, she has no idea if she would belong in Serbia either. When her grandmother becomes ill, it brings her loneliness and isolation into sharp focus.

Esko, her colleague, is definitely a rough diamond. The author does such a brilliant job with him. Showing us a man who is not easy to like, but at the same time being able to show us that he is struggling under the weight of his life and his failures, every bit as much as Anna.

Sammy, a young Pakistani Christian, has fled his home under threat of death and is living in Finland as an illegal immigrant. His application for asylum has been rejected and he is to be returned home. In the meantime he finds himself caught up in drugs and gang warfare. His story would have a heart of stone weeping.

The setting of Finland is vividly brought to life, and is as much a part of the book as the plot. The cold and snow seeps into everything and adds to the tension.

The novel is translated to English by David Hackston who has done an excellent job; at no point did I feel I was reading a book in translation.

The plotting of this book is complex and tight with myriad, seemingly disparate, strands being juggled effortlessly and with complete plausibility. This is a taut thriller with intelligent writing which reminded me of Ian Rankin. I would hugely recommend.
****1/2

Many thanks to Karen at Orenda books for sending me a copy.

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