Title: The Defenceless
Author: Kati Hiekkapelto
Translator: David Hackston
Publisher: Orenda Books
Date of publication: 2015
Number of pages: 320
Chilling, disturbing, and terrifyingly believable, an extraordinary thriller by one of the most exciting new voices in crime fiction
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.
I know you missed my Orenda reviews 😀 I missed them too!
The Defenceless was another cover love. I was appealed by the road, the mystery of it, and the cold that seemed to irradiate from the colors. Once again, my gut did not let me down!
A nordic investigation again? Well, weirdly, I am not getting tired of them, as every story I have read so far had an original and refreshing tone to it. The Defenceless is no exception. But I would not categorize this story as only a crime book because there is so much more going on that dead bodies and police cars rushing through town.
I first fall for the writing. Distant but true, cold but spot-on, raw but realistic. The author expresses feelings in a very particular way, she shows her readers things just as they are, without sugarcoating, whether it be characters’ feelings or the country’s issues. Every word followed the other in a perfect dance that pictured the world as it is and this amazing prose touched me more than lots of flowery or metaphorical writings. The narration is powerful enough to be self-sufficient and efficient. My thanks and congratulations to David Hackston for such great translation.
Society needed the drunk, the obese, the depressed, as examples to the rest of us and to provide statistics with which to frighten people.
Anna Fekete, the main character, is a mystery to me. Anna is a complicated character, she has a very down-to-Earth behavior and a thick shell to protect herself, and not only from the cold. I was fascinated by the way she saw the world around her. As an Hungarian-born now Finnish citizen, her point of view on things was different from what I had ever read before, and the author skillfully added the layer of where you home lays when you have been uprooted and replanted somewhere else. Her feelings about countries, the forces behind why people moved, the differences between nationalities and the issues stemming from this were discussed in a very clever way, and I could feel Anna’s longing for her home country while her place was in Finland. It’s a very special feeling and I loved that it played a part in the story.
This was the power of words, she thought – the link between our native language and how we understand the world.
Directly linked to this was the subject of immigration. I never expected it to be so present and actual. I have never traveled to Finland and I don’t know how things are over there but this is an issue that is at the heart of our societies these days and I felt the author had done a great job portraying what it is like for the population, citizens and newly arrived people.
Language is only an image of what is happening inside us, he thought, of what we observe around us, but those images are universal.
The author intertwined it with the investigation, or should I say investigations, giving us a strong, multi-layered, photograph of the story, the moment, and it only made things feel more authentic. Racism, illegal immigration and what it brings with it, drugs, you have it all. It could have made the story too heavy or confusing, but The Defenceless never falls into the pit of info-dumping, lose ends and subplots lost in the pages. The book is a perfectly executed music score.
The investigation itself is at the center of everything and you are handled many threats that don’t seem to be related at first, but when everything comes to place, it clicks and makes you think “Yes! That’s it.” I need to mention the attention to details, especially with the forensics, as I’m a sucker for real time frames and special teams trained for it, instead of having main characters handle everything themselves, making me roll my eyes and consider giving up on the book!
Section by section, scene by scene, they pieced together the events of this tragedy without seeing its protagonists.
The cases are disturbing, one question leading to another, one hint making it harder to figure out what is going on, making tension ratchet up with every new detail, blurring the lines of what is wrong, what is the best thing to do, and what is really happening. I was stuck in the middle of a web I couldn’t make sense of, and it felt so good to just let myself be driven my the case and the protagonists.
Perhaps youth could conceal sorrow more effectively than any foundation cream.
Just as the investigations are the driving force behind all subplots, secondary characters are exceptionally well-crafted and an essential part of the story. You won’t like them all. The author has a knack for creating a very diverse and complex cast of people who will push your buttons, make you change your mind, think twice about their reasons, motivations, and situations.
Overall, The Defenceless is a deep analysis of society forced by a strong and chilling case with more twists than you can hope for. I’m looking forward to reading more from the author!
I would like to thank Karen Sullivan for providing me with a copy of this book. This unbiased review is my thanks to her and the author.
You can get the book in your favorite bookstore, on Amazon, or on the Orenda Books’ ebookstore
Kati Hiekkapelto is a bestselling author, punk singer, performance artist and special-needs teacher. She lives on an old farm on the island of Hailuoto in Northern Finland with her children and sizable menagerie. Hiekkapelto has taught immigrants and lived in the Hungarian region of Serbia, which inspired her to write her highly regarded debut crime novel, The Hummingbird. The sequel, The Defenceless, was published in 2015 by Orenda Books, as well as The Exiled.
You can find Kati on Twitter: @HiekkapeltoKati
David Hackston is a British translator of Finnish and Swedish literature and drama. He graduated from University College London in 1999 with a degree in Scandinavian Studies and now lives in Helsinki where he works as a freelance translator.
Notable publications include The Dedalus Book of Finnish Fantasy, Maria Peura’s coming-of-age novel At the Edge of Light, Johanna Sinisalo’s eco-thriller Birdbrain and two crime novels by Matti Joensuu. David is currently working on a translation of Riku Korhonen’s latest novel Sleep Close. His drama translations include three plays by Heini Junkkaala, most recently Play it, Billy! (2012) about the life and times of jazz pianist Billy Tipton. David is also a regular contributor to Books from Finland. In 2007 he was awarded the Finnish State Prize for Translation.
David is also a professional countertenor and is currently studying early music and performance practice at Helsinki Metropolia University. He is a founding member of the English Vocal Consort of Helsinki.
You can find David on Twitter: @countertenorist