Monday, 5 December 2016

"Dear child. This is a different world from the one you're used to. There are some situations to which the normal rules don't apply. Thank God, you don't know anything about this kind of place"

'The Exiled' marks the third outing for Finnish detective Anna Fekete, Heikkapelto's hugely popular literary lead who is coming to define a particular strand of Nordic Noir coming out of Finland.

This time Anna returns to her childhood home in The Balkans with the intention of taking a relaxing holiday. Typically for this genre the holiday is seriously cut short when Anna's handbag is stolen at a party and the body of the thief is later found washed up on the banks of the river. Anna is immediately drawn into the investigation which ultimately brings her face to face with the circumstances surrounding the death of her own father years before.

I'm reviewing this book as part of Orenda Books Finnish Invasion blog tour which celebrates the best of crime fiction coming out of Finland including not only Kati Hiekkapelto but also Antti Tuomainen whose novel The Mine I'm reviewing later this week.  This blog is packed full of Nordic Noir reviews from Ragnar Jonasson to Arne Dahl but to my knowledge this is the first time I've read a translated novel from Finland. 

'The Exiled' is a well written slice of crime fiction with all the chilling tension and dark secrets we've come to expect from the genre; "Anna had the impression that their mother had already accepted that her grand children might not be her own flesh and blood".  The locations perfectly capture the pressure of the investigation and the characters that inhabit Heikkapelto's landscapes; "The Sun was like an enormous, glowing eye looking down omnisciently on the Jaras"

Heikkapelto expertly weaves contemporary themes into the story by setting the drama at the heart of the Eastern European refugee crisis. Anna Fekete is the perfect protaganist here as she herself is a outsider with the strength of mind and sheer independence to dig deeper into places others would fear to tread. As such, Anna is the star of the novel and a character that you want to read so much more about.

At times the story slows down and gets bogged down in detail that does little to drive the story forward but at other times the pace is faster and more compelling. Heikkapelto's writing style is immersive and distinct but for me I would have liked a little more Finland so I will be checking out the first two of the Anna Fekete novels, The Hummingbird and The Defenceless

Credit must also be given to translator David Hackston who surely must have one of the most difficult jobs in fiction translating from such a unique language.

I read this novel on paperback (thank you Karen for the advance copy), mostly on the train in and out of Marylebone

The Exiled by Kati Hiekkapelto and translated by David Hackston, published by Orenda Books, 300 pages

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