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Thriller set in Finland (cold and foreboding… but with a social conscience)

13th October 2015

The Defenceless by Kati Hiekkapelto – thriller set in Finland (translated by David Hackston). The book justifiably won the award for Best Finnish Crime Novel 2014.


The Defenceless is very much in the genre of the best Scandinavian noir… Contrasting detectives – Anna Fekete and Esko Niemi – work on two cases that overlap. One is an old man found dead on a road – apparently run over by a Hungarian au pair – and the other is an investigation into the drug dealing activities of an immigrant gang. The story moves at pace, and comes to a thrilling – and somewhat unexpected – finale. It is well thought through, well written (and well translated).

But The Defenceless is a great deal more than just an excellent thriller. It is very definitely a book with a social conscience. Anna is the ‘good’ detective (although far from perfect) and Esko is the ‘flawed’. One of the suspects interviewed by the police is a young Afghan boy who is an illegal immigrant into Finland. The boy has a big drug problem, but is essentially a good person. Anna, herself an immigrant from the Balkans, tries to take him under her wing. Esko mocks with the racial and religious stereotyping that typify a person of his beliefs. [Yet, incidentally, Esko is not bad – he is ‘flawed’ in the way that will be familiar to many a follower of current fictional detectives. He also has the obligatory alcohol problem]. Attitudes to refugees and immigrants are fully debated in the book with some interesting conclusions. I have been reading The Defenceless at a time when the current refugee and immigrant crisis is consuming Europe – and it all seems very pertinent…especially if, as mooted, people are to be dispersed to countries and populations where they will not be welcome. A subject that is not going to go away.


TF’s Tina (right) chats to Kati Hiekkapelto

In TripFiction terms of a location based novel, The Defenceless scores highly. It is set in Northern Finland as winter moves into spring – and as the snow begins to melt. One particular section where Anna skis across the frozen sea to a small island, and then gets lost in a forest, is especially evocative. One can almost feel the icy wind on her face… Hiekkapelto lives on the island of Hailuoto, itself in Northern Finland, and she clearly uses her local knowledge and experiences to good effect in her descriptions.

The Defenceless is a really good read – thanks to Kati Hiekkapelto, but also to the translator David Hackston.

Tony for the TripFiction team

Connect with Kati via Twitter and Facebook. And do come and connect with the Team at TripFiction via social media: TwitterFacebook and Pinterest and when we have some interesting photos we can sometimes be found over on Instagram too. Fancy more books to evoke Finland? Just click here!


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