Finland

The Exiled – Kati Hiekkapelto

Title – The Exiled

Author – Kati Hiekkapelto (translated by David Hackston)

Published – 2016

Genre – Crime fiction

This is the third book in translation from Finnish author Kati Hiekkapelto in her crime fiction series featuring Senior Constable Anna Fekete and the next book in the series after The Defenceless.

In The Exiled Anna has returned home from Finland for her holiday but on the evening of her arrival her handbag is stolen. The next day a man, presumed to be the thief, is found dead on the banks of the river. Anna’s training demands a thorough investigation by the local police but they are quick to wash their hands of the whole incident and close it as quickly as possible. Undeterred Anna pursues her own investigation, making the most of the resources she has and a burgeoning relationship with a local policeman.

Initially her focus is on the refugees who are living in camps in the area but a coincidence leads her to discover a much more personal connection to events and to distressing secrets at the heart of those she grew up amongst.

This is very much a book about home and family. While The Defenceless painted a picture of immigration in Finland, here it is her own home town that is under pressure from the refugee crisis, it’s also a place with a divided population  – Serbs and Hungarians and a small population of Romani. For Anna her return to Kanisza makes her consider if this is actually her home or if rather Finland is her home, and what ‘home’ means to her. At the same time she is spending more time with her family and the repetitive questions from all and sundry about ‘settling down and having children’ give her cause to reflect on the future. These aspects of Anna’s own story in the book and her relationships with her family which means this has a slower pace than other ‘police procedurals’ might.

Again this has a seamless translation without a moment when the writing reminded me that I was reading something which wasn’t originally written in English.

Thank you to the publisher of the review copy. You can see another point of view on Jackie’s blog ‘Never Imitate’.

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Two short reviews – Antti Tuomainen & Nadia Dalbuono

A couple of short reviews in an effort to clear the ‘read but not yet reviewed’ stack.

519xkpynnPLTitle – Dark as my Heart

Author – Antti Tuomainen (translated by Lola Rogers)

Published – Oct 2015

Genre – Crime fiction

Finland has perhaps been one of the smaller forces in the wave of Scandi and Nordic noir so it’s difficult to know if this take on crime fiction is typical of the Finnish contribution.

The story is told from an unusual perspective – the premise is that the murderer (responsible for the disappearance of a young woman some twenty years ago) is already known from the beginning  of the book. The guilty party is a reclusive millionaire who the police have been unable to link to the woman’s disappearance. Her son Aleksi, now in his thirties, decides to take matters into his own hands and manages to get a job working on the man’s country estate. The story is told from Aleksi’s point of view (and in first person) both in the present and as flashbacks to the time around his mother’s disappearance. As Aleksi tries to unravel the events of the past and find the evidence he needs he is drawn into a relationship with the millionaire’s reckless daughter Amanda.

There are some recognisable themes from ‘Nordic Noir’ with dark characters, isolation playing a key aspect in the tension and some graphic violence. However, I found the writing slow going, a lot of use was made of coincidences and I didn’t care enough about the characters. I am perhaps  in the minority, though, as Dark as My Heart was optioned for feature film in 2013 and is in development at Making Movies Ltd, the production company behind the Finnish film Black Ice. The novel has also been voted the best crime novel of the past decade by the readers of a Finnish crime fiction magazine.

You can see a more positive review on Raven’s blog.


 

51T1XZu41pLTitle – The American

Author – Nadia Dalbuono

Published – Jan 2016

Genre – Crime fiction

I was keen to read this book as I’m a fan of crime fiction set in Italy – it can offer a more relaxed approach to police procedurals compared to books set in the UK or USA and of course there is the opportunity to be transported to somewhere more exotic.

The book opens with the apparent suicide of a man discovered hanging from a bridge in Rome close to the Vatican City. The detective assigned to the case – Leone Scamarcio – is concerned that the death echoes the notorious murder of Roberto Calvi (‘God’s Banker’) in 1982. The murder a few days later of a cardinal within the Vatican City and a warning by some mysterious heavies from the ‘US Authorities’ guarantee that Scamarcio is more rather than less interested in getting to the bottom of the death.

What follows is a mix of police procedural and thriller made more complex by the introduction of conspiracy theories around 9/11, the Polish Solidarity party, corruption in the Vatican and acts of terror within Italy. The actual effect of this was to slow down the pace of the investigative part of the plot to expand on the theories with background and explanation and I found it all too detailed and complex to hold my interest.

What I found particularly disappointing about this book was that it felt as if it could have been set anywhere – I prefer my crime fiction to give me a better, more immersive, feel for the country it is set in.

You can see another point of view on the Euro Crime website.

Thank you to the publishers for the review copies.

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The Defenceless – Kati Hiekkapelto

810AJmUp3cL._SL1500_Title – The Defenceless

Author – Kati Hiekkapelto (translated by David Hackston)

Published – 2014 (2015 in translation)

Genre – Crime fiction

This is the second book in translation from Finnish author Kati Hiekkapelto in her crime fiction series featuring Senior Constable Anna Fekete.

If you take the definition that Nordic Noir “typically features dark storylines and bleak urban settings” and also “incorporate larger social issues into the narrative of police work” then The Defenceless is a perfect example. Through the investigation of a number of deaths which seemingly have no connection Hiekkapelto explores the issues of immigration and isolation, the treatment of the elderly, drugs, gangs, smuggling…

The police investigation initially concerns the death of an unidentified elderly man who has been run over on a deserted road by a Hungarian au pair. With no obvious evidence to suggest how he found his way to the site the investigation is making slow progress. Then elsewhere a bloody knife is discovered in the snow. At the same time there is concern that a new gang of criminals is trying to expand into the city and it’s Fekete’s colleague Esko who takes the lead on this, using an informant to try to track them down. But as all the investigations progress they become linked to a single apartment block.

The immigration issue is obviously a particularly topical one at the moment and it’s interesting that the book features both those who are obviously immigrants (a young man from Pakistan) as well as those who don’t outwardly appear to be different (Fekete herself is originally from Hungary, a survivor of the Serbo-Croatian war, she immigrated to Finland with her mother and brother when she was a child). This gives the author the opportunity to explore the issues around immigration from multiple points of view – from the young man who is battling against a drug addition and trying to claim asylum, to a young woman trying to blend in with her Finnish colleagues whilst struggling with the distance she is putting between herself and her family. The other side of the issue is explored through Fekete’s colleague Esko, close to retirement he is overtly racist (as well as being a drunk, a bully and sexist to boot) although he does have some moments where redemption seems possible.

I must also mention the translation, which is absolutely seamless, there wasn’t a moment when the writing reminded me that I was reading something which wasn’t originally written in English.

The Defenceless certainly has the melancholic feel that you would expect from Nordic crime fiction and while the plot seemed as if it was going to unfold simply, as Fekete and her colleagues brought the different threads together, it managed to hold more surprises.

Thank you to the publisher of the review copy. You can see another point of view on Vicky Newman’s blog.

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