The Defencelsss

Written by Kati Hiekkapelto

Review written by Sara Townsend

Sara-Jayne Townsend is a published crime and horror writer and likes books in which someone dies horribly. She is founder and Chair Person of the T Party Writers’ Group.

The Defencelsss
Orenda Books
RRP: £8.99
Released: September 3, 2015
Trade Pbk

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 train where illegal immigration, drugs and, ultimately, murder threaten not only her beliefs, but her life. Meanwhile Anna’s partner Esko is involved in a case involving gang warfare, drugs and illegal immigration. Then a bloody knife is found in the snow by a pair of teenage girls, and the two separate cases connect in a way that could have dangerous consequences for all concerned.

Scandinavian noir shows no sign of losing popularity in the UK any time soon, and this novel is the second one featuring Finnish-based detective Anna Fekete. Part of the appeal of novels set in Scandinavian countries, I think, is the exotic ‘otherness’ of a foreign country. The spirit of the harsh Finnish winter certainly comes across in this novel, and although it’s difficult for a British reader to imagine what it must be like to experience winter in a country that gets as cold as Finland, we get a pretty good idea of it in this story.

A major theme of this novel is immigration, a contemporary topic that is particularly relevant to Anna Fekete. Living and working in Finland, she hails from the Hungarian part of Serbia and was displaced by the Serbo-Croatian war. Her sense of alienation, and grief for a homeland that no longer exists defines her and gives an added dimension to her character. It also makes her sympathise with the Hungarian au pair who ran over the old man, and the Christian Pakistani Sammy, who wants only a safe place to live. Mixed up with drugs and the gang war, Sammy is only trying to make his life better. When he confesses to murders he did not commit because he thinks that if he’s sent to prison he will at least be safe and will not have to return to Pakistan, you can’t help but feel sorry for this misguided and naïve young man, as Anna does.

In contrast, Anna’s partner Esko is an obnoxious, racist and misogynistic character who it’s very difficult to feel any sympathy for at all, and it’s to Anna’s credit that she makes a point of working with him constructively, without argument, despite some of the deeply unpleasant things he comes out with.

This is a complex and intriguing story, with many different sub-plots that are all neatly brought together in the end. It has some well-portrayed and realistic characters, and the issue of illegal immigration underlining the plot is highly relevant to everyone in Europe. If you are a fan of Scandinavian noir, you will love this one. If you are unfamiliar with the genre, this accomplished novel is a good place to start.

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