The Defenceless – 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.
My thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for my review copy.
The Defenceless opens with two drug dealers enjoying some of their wares in suburban flat being confronted by an elderly neighbour. There is an argument and an accident and the first thread in the elegant tapestry of the story is sewn. Next we find lead character Anna Fekete has been called to investigate what appears to be a hit and run accident, however, the victim appears to be on a road in totally inappropriate clothing for a winter night.
More threads soon follow: gang wars are spilling into Finland from Denmark. We follow a boy in Finland who is (topically) an illegal alien trying to avoid the authorities and inevitable deportation. A Hungarian au pair who is a suspect in an investigation but also wants to be Anna’s new best friend as she feels a connection through their Eastern European heritage. All these elements, and more, are skillfully pulled together as the story unfolds and we are treated to a captivating thriller.
The Defenceless is the second book featuring Anna and her partner Esko, both were introduced in The Hummingbird (another must read title). Despite this being the second in the series I do not feel it is essential to have read The Hummingbird to enjoy The Defenceless. Everything I needed to know about Anna was smoothly integrated into the story without feeling I was reading a recap.
One key observation I would make about The Defenceless (and this is also true other Orenda titles) there is that there is a magnificent sensation of location to be experienced when you read. Although I have never been to Finland Kati Hiekkapelto made dark woods and icy cold Finish towns come alive around me. Despite reading The Defenceless by a Spanish swimming pool in the height of summer I felt the chill of a Finish winter – the creeping darkness in the cold Northern nights. The sensation of ‘being there’ lifts an already strong story and makes the reader feel they are part of the adventure.
The Defenceless is a terrific read, atmospheric with the great mix of twists and unexpected discoveries playing out with a strong and likeable lead character. I am very much looking forward to the next book from Kati Hiekkapelto.
The Defenceless is published by Orenda Books and is available in paperback and digital format.