I am still in fictional Finland and having finished the book, filled with the bitter-sweet emotions one gets – the sense of achievement conflicting with the loss of being with those people who have filled my imagination this last few days.
On this occasion I was holding back tears as I had been wrapped-up in the lives of the key players in Kati’s second Anna novel:-
- Anna Fekete,
- Esko and
We get even closer to Anna and Esko in this the sequel to The Hummingbird which I reviewed only recently. The crime threads aren’t connected so you can read them standalone I hasten to add.
Without giving anything away this is full of personal emotion for Anna and leads us on to the next one without leaving loose crime threads. At some points I did wonder if Anna would herself unravel if we pulled too hard.
On September 8, 2015 I was fortunate to be able to attend a book event at Blackwell’s in Portsmouth. Both Gunnar Staalesen and Kati Hiekkapleto were the star turns on a short tour on their way to Bloody Scotland.
The local event had been arranged by Karen Sullivan (Orenda Books) and the MC was Quentin Bates (known on social media as ‘GreyBeard;’ a local writer in his own right and also translator of note). Both authors answered questions about their work and also gave us the honour of reading small passages from their latest.
Kati read from The Defenceless where two girls go out into the forest to smoke purloined cigarettes and discover a crime scene.
Afterwards a small group of us went for food in a local restaurant where I was able to enjoy the company of Kati and her lovely teenage daughter. She is a fan of fantasy in the written word citing ‘Lord of the Rings’ as one of her favourite books.
I was also privileged to have both Kati’s books dedicated and also Gunnar’s We Shall Inherit the Wind.
Anyway, I had started to read The Defenceless in earnest only that day having read a few chapters before going back to read The Hummingbird to get the back-story on our key players e.g. Anna, Esko and rest of the violent crimes unit.
I had only literally finished Anna 1 the evening before and written the review you will find on previously on this blog.
The Book of the Blog
We start this story from the perspective of a character called Sammy, who is with us throughout the story, and his escape from his homeland from persecution and death on his journey to Finland.
As we rejoin Anna and her colleagues, the plot forks off into a number of threads; the investigation of a road traffic accident where a Hungarian girl has apparently run over and killed an old man – who is miles from home; two girls that find a blood-stained crime scene have decided to report it to the police so we now have three strands and two crimes at the beginning of a complex and twisting plot.
Anna, now a senior constable, and Sari are working on these threads. Anna’s brother isn’t helping but she manages to clear the way for him in his fight against booze and he ceases to be as much of a distraction for her. Although the Hungarian girl begins to irritate both Anna and the reader – well she did me – cropping up at the wrong moment on occasions.
Then a neighbour of the apparent road accident victim disappears; a drug dealer is found dead with serious injuries in his flat in the same building. The links between these new investigations, Sammy our refugee and the conflict between The Hells Angels and The Black Cobras gangs builds this into a taut and complex plot.
This gives Esko, working alone something to focus on as well as dealing with his boozing and smoking and their effects on his fitness and general health. But as they say every dog has his day – Esko gets some kudos in this novel after all he is a long-serving and good ‘copper’ even though he is a stereotypical racist.
Written from the perspective of a number of the characters; Sammy, Esko and of course Anna the pace of this novel is really good. The swap between their angles keeps the pace moving nicely as a small clue will be dropped and then you are inspired to read-on to find out what happens next. Anna’s life is as usual the main thread running through this and last, with her family issues coming to a head again in this one.
In addition to the crimes and Anna’s life, we are given a microscope on the plight of an individual refugee. How they are prepared to live in desperate circumstances as opposed to being captured and killed in their own country for religious reasons as in this case or because their country was at war and they wanted to escape the horrors. It also looks at how intelligent, law abiding people are sometimes prepared to cross the line when it comes to helping others.
I love this book as I did the previous instalment. It is better I would say but different in that it isn’t a police procedural although there is crime scene investigation, the unit meetings with their boss, the autopsy scenes and the detectives at their work but in this and the other book so far it is also about the people, the social condition and their lives. Kati brings into this the seasonal changes as Anna’s exercise regime changes from jogging to skiing. Even a glimpse into the female condition is something I understand now was threaded in for a good reason.
Last but not least it is topical; it makes an important statement about what is happening in the world as I write – tens of thousands of misplaced human beings escaping from war and terror and religious fanaticism. Presenting an economic and political challenge for the leaders of both our countries and those of the wider EU community.
I couldn’t possibly even start to explain the outcome of this book in a few words and anyway as you’ll now know if you read me that I don’t do SPOILERS but as I always say there are I hope enough TEASERS to inspire you to get this one and read it for yourself. We are definitely left with a reason to want to come back to Anna, I can’t wait for Anna 3.
- Karen at Orenda Books for my copy now a signed treasure
- Kati Hiekkapelto the writer of these engaging books
- David Hackston the translator
- Blackwell’s in Portsmouth for the event