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Thriller set in Kanizsa, Serbia (a long way from Finland…)

9th December 2016

The Exiled by Kati Hiekkapelto – thriller set in Kanizsa, Serbia (translated from the Finnish by David Hackston).

The Exiled in the third book in the Anna Fekete series. The first two, The Hummingbird and The Defenceless, are firmly set in Finland. The Exiled is equally firmly set in Serbia.

fullsizeoutput_2614Anna is a detective with the Finnish police force. She returns home for the summer to visit her mother in Kanizsa, a town on the Serbian-Hungarian border. Kanizsa is where she was born and brought up. One bank of the River Tisza that flows alongside the town is in Serbia, the other bank is in Hungary. Her family is part of a Hungarian speaking minority, they are not ethnic Serbian.

On her first evening home Anna is drinking at a café in town with some friends when her handbag is stolen. The thief runs off – and ends up (later) dead by the banks of the river. The local police say simply that he drowned. Anna investigates and finds that all is not as it seems… Her investigations lead her into both the local Roma community, and also into the camps of refugees fleeing across Europe and waiting to cross the border into Hungary – a far from easy task without the necessary papers. The police are of no help at all – and, indeed, seek to frustrate her activities. She is pretty certain there is a cover up, but why?

She also hears stories of her father’s death years earlier. He was allegedly shot by a Roma while investigating a mafia crime in a remote farmhouse, but the accused had an alibi which the authorities chose to ignore at the time. She wants to know what actually happened to him and who killed him – but, again (a bit like the current investigation) she is confronted by a wall of silence. Could there possibly across the years be some sort of connection between the two crimes?

thriller set in Kanizsa, serbia

Antti Tuomainen, TripFiction’s Tina, Kati Hiekkapelto, TripFiction’s Tony

The Exiled is a dramatic and well worked thriller but, as ever with Kati’s books, it carries a message of social conscience. The good people of Kanizsa look down on the Roma, who live amongst them but who have no hope of successful local employment and whose men go off begging around Europe – thus reinforcing the stereotype of them being nothing but wasters. Similarly, they despise the refugees whom they call migrants – the preferred term of the Hungarian media. They are not at all seen as fellow human beings fleeing war and destitution in their homelands. This is sadly not a story of everyone getting along together…

It is, though, an exciting and thought provoking read.

Tony for the TripFiction team


We have been talking to Kati about where she lives and how it influences some of her writing:

I live on an island called Hailuoto. It is situated in north of the Baltic sea, in Bothnic Gulf. There are only 1000 inhabitants on this island and my mother’s side of the family has been living here over 400 years. I was born in Oulu, which is a nearby town on the mainland. If I want to go to town I have to drive 20 km to the ferry harbour, take a 25-minute ferry trip to mainland Finland, and then drive about 20 km to the centre. One could say I live in the middle of nowhere or behind the God´s back, but personally I don´t feel that way at all. Across the sea you can sail wherever you want; for me, it is more like an open road than an obstacle. ‘Sailor’ is a traditional profession on this island and in past days there was at least one man in every house who had seen the whole world by ship. For that reason, Hailuoto was never really a backward place.

But my books are not set in Hailuoto nor in Oulu. Both The Hummingbird and The Defenceless take place in an North Finnish town that has some similarities with my birth town, but does not exist in reality. I wanted to create a fictional place for Anna Fekete. She is an outsider in the Finnish community and doesn´t feel completely at home there. I think descriptions of landscape and setting illustrate the inner thinking of a character as well as his or her outer surroundings. Therefore Anna´s hometown remained nameless and imaginary; it tells something about Anna´s alien-like personality.

The Exiled is an exception. The book is set in Serbia, in a small town called Magyarkanizsa, where Anna was born and where her mother lives. Kanizsa is a real place. I have lived there myself for a year and I have many friends there. I go to visit them as often as I can. The majority of the population there is Hungarian, as is Anna Fekete. When I lived there I learned to speak Hungarian, not Serbian. Even Serbs living in the town speak good Hungarian, so I didn´t need that language at all. Hungarian kids go to Hungarian schools and one of the school subjects is Hungarian folklore and traditions. I think that it is due to Yugoslavian multicultural ideology that minorities in Serbia still a have relatively good situation. Well, at least influential minorities like the Hungarians. I don´t mention Romany people here. You can read about them in The Exiled

Finally, back to Hailuoto. Last night it snowed over 15cm. It is nice because it gives light to otherwise dark surroundings. At this time of year we don´t have much daylight, even though we are 230 km south of the Arctic Circle. Darkness is total and, for some people depressing, too.  But soon our sea will be frozen enough to create an ice road to the mainland. For a couple of months we are not dependent on ferry timetables. But who needs the mainland? We have everything on the island: beautiful wild nature to explore, silence in which to create, clean air to breathe, a library and couple of shops and bars, too.

Thank you to Kati, what an amazing place her island is! You can follow Kati on Twitter and via her website. Buy her books here.

And catch up with Team TripFiction via Twitter (@tripfiction), Facebook (TripFiction), Instagram (TripFiction) and Pinterest (TripFiction)… and now YouTube

For more book set in Serbia, click here.

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