Year 3 / Book 52: The Defenceless

52) The Defenceless by Kati Hiekkapelto

Holidaying in Helsinki, and for my final book of Year 3 of Dogeared Man, I wanted to read a Finnish novel and remembered I had downloaded this many moons ago on to the Kindle. It’s the second novel by Hiekkapelto to feature Anna Fekete, a policewoman whose origins lie in the former Yugoslavia; and very fine it is too. It gradually brings together some disparate plot strands: the death of an old man, a refugee set to be deported for having entered the country illegally, the rise of a drugs gang, and a knife found with blood on it out the back of some housing.

What raises it above the normal police procedural set in Scandinavia is primarily the character of Fekete herself. There is none of the jazz record and alcohol problem we find in the more basic characters in the genre; Fekete is really human, struggling with her family relationships, with her own sense of identity in the country that is her home (but is also not her home), with her own loneliness, with her period pain, and with her colleagues.

She also has a powerful sense of social justice and a social conscience, which presumably mirrors that of the author, at least in part. So this novel touches on addiction to heroin substitutes, the unfairness and harshness of the rules for those seeking refuge, the effect on those in the police force from the cases they work on, the loneliness of the elderly, and the racism that continues to permeate society.

It’s powerful and compelling stuff – the Moomins it is not; so although the strands weave together a bit too neatly into one ending, it’s easy to see why this won Finnish Crime Novel of the year back in 2014. I may well go and seek out the two other books this author has written which both precede and follow this one; both will no doubt conjur up memories of Finland as well as embroil me in solid plots and great characterisation.

Score: 7.5/10

BUY IT NOW; The Defenceless (Anna Fekete Book 1)

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