Finland, Pakistan and Hungary – The Defenceless – Kati Hiekkapelto

KATI-BOOK

Why a booktrail?

Finland has many different sides to it that most of us will never see….

Story in a nutshell

Police investigator Anna Fekete is brought in to investigate when an old man, wearing pyjamas, is found dead on the road. Gabriella, the girl who ran him over is Hungarian and speaks no Finnish so Anna has to try and remember her lapsed Hungarian.

As the investigation continues however, it soon becomes clear that this case is a whole lot more than a car accident. The man’s appartment block seems to be a haven for all sorts of goings on from drug dealing to illegal immigrants.

Anna’s partner Esko is also involved in a  similarly dubious investigation and it’s not long before the two cases merge with dangerous consequences for all.

Place and setting

A Finnish thriller with a unique tour of locations...The town in Finland where Anna works and lives has no name and it is fictional. It could be Oulu though, the town where Kati was born.
A Finnish thriller with a unique tour of locations…The town in Finland where Anna works and lives has no name and it is fictional. It could be Oulu though, the town where Kati was born.

Who would have thought that one apartment building gin the centre of a Finnish city could be so ‘varied’? A microcosm of so many nationalities, society problems and a haven of the city’s underbelly.

The issues which result from this apartment, from this city are made up of various issues which live side by side in this cramped and cold world. Issues such as cultural dislocation – where a person is forced to leave their entire world, their life and some part of their identity behind in order to start a new life, to escape religious or some other kind of persecution.

Pakistan

Sammy is one such person whose application to stay in Finland has been rejected. Having lost his family, his only comfort now is heroin and Subutex. A desperately cold and isolating place to be.

Sammy’s story is particularly moving. He’s ran from his homeland, a refugee from the persecuted Christian minority in Pakistan, and thought nothing more of than ‘cargo’ in much the same way as the drugs are which come in from the same truck –

Hidden in a truck belching  thick exhaust fumes and driven across the endless steppes of Russia illegally.

He is forced to go underground in order to survive in the best and only way he can. His spiral downwards into hell is all too tragic and realistic and the people he comes across in this world are not the kind you would ever want to meet yourself.

Hungary

Anna  is also an outsider ( a Croat of Hungarian origin who came to Finland as a child to escape the war in Yugoslavia) but from the other side of the track. An immigrant yes but also a police officer. Her view of the world and of her adopted country are different to those she serves. Still somewhat of an outsider however, she has a unique view of them and how she fits in, and how the changes in her home country are unsettling on so many levels. When her brother returns to Hungary (and it’s how and why he leaves that are important) Anna is once again faced with feelings of how her life was then compared to how it is now.

Review

A crime novel with a difference. Not your typical Nordic Noir as it is much more multilayered and complex which elevates it to a whole new level. The characters and setting from the Hummingbird are back but this is a whole new meaning of the word ‘ underbelly’

Anna is a fascinating character. Where does she fit it and how can she settle in Finland when her own identity and that of her country keeps changing. Even the name of the country continues to change. Such a background gives her empathy and understanding but a whole other set of problems which I found very interesting. Just how do you work to help people like Sammy and solve crimes when your own story is just as tangled?

The problems faced by Finland are of course problems which cross borders and these are all very topical subjects at the moment which makes this novel particularly timely.

Anna has some tough issues to deal with – alcohol being one of the most confused – for her own brother returns to Hungary and her role of helping Gabriella and Sammy are fraught with conflict.

Immigrants and drug gangs,  not to mention the cold and biting weather makes for one heck of a backdrop to a complex and ultimately satisfying read.