Book Review: The Defenceless by Kati Hiekkapelto (Trans. by David Hackston)

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A gritty sequel to Kati Hiekkapelto’s Petrona nominated debut.

Provocative, intelligent, and intense, Kati Hiekkapelto’s first novel, The Hummingbird, signalled the arrival of a new socially conscious voice in Nordic Noir literature. A searing commentary on Finnish attitudes to immigration, the book asked charged questions about integration in the modern Nordic context. An assured début that combined a social conscience with precision plotting.

In her follow-up novel, Kati Hiekkapelto weaves a complex multi-layered narrative that compels the reader to re-evaluate long standing opinions. More strident than its predecessor, the book uses the crime fiction genre to shine a torch onto under-reported social problems.

Pakistani migrant Sammy has fled his homeland to escape religious persecution. After his application for asylum is denied he is forced to live rough on the streets of Finland. Fearful that repatriation to Pakistan might mean execution for his Christian beliefs, Sammy seeks solace in heroin. Believing a life of addiction and scavenging in bins for food to be preferable than deportation Sammy is determined to remain in Finland. After an unexpected death, he comes into contact with the police and has to face the prospect of his liberty being jeopardised.

Suspicious that the reported death of an old man in an apparent traffic accident is not a clear-cut case, police investigator Anna Fekete decides to take a more active role in the case and soon uncovers a shadowy world of illegal immigration, street gangs, and drug smuggling.

Thought provoking and thrilling, The Defenceless is a supremely well-written novel. A much needed contribution to the migrant debate, Hiekkapelto has previously taught immigrant students and used the experience to shatter myths that migrants wish to live in Europe for purely economic reasons.

Socially conscious without polemic, The Defenceless offers further proof that Hiekkapelto is one of the most exciting new authors working in Nordic Noir.

The Defenceless can be ordered from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Defenceless-Anna-Fekete-Kati-Hiekkapelto/dp/1910633135/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1442511060&sr=1-1&keywords=kati+hiekkapelto

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