‘Many times during the course of his life he had wondered what was ultimately true and what was false. What was reality and what merely illusion, and how much of it was nothing but a web of words and thoughts in our own brains, a tapestry of our own making.’
(The Exiled, p.177)
Our protagonist Anna Fekete chips away at a mystery in The Exiled by Finnish author Kati Hiekkapelto. This is the third book which features Anna Fekete but this time Anna is not in Finland but back home visiting her family in Kanizsa, a Balkan village. The mystery is tangled up with a historical crime and if it is solved Anna will discover how and why her father (also a policeman) was killed. The book has a sense of disquiet. Anna seems torn between restlessness, helplessness and trying to enjoy her summer vacation. Despite a few holiday activities and a brief romance, Anna cannot escape the fact that she has to solve this case. She doesn’t get much help from the corrupt local police force, she has to contend with local gangsters, refugee prejudice and to top it all her mother does not want her to dig up the past.
The story explores the everyday realities of the refugee crisis spreading across Europe and Anna’s journey of self discovery of who she is and where she belongs. It underlines Anna’s ability as a detective as well as showcasing her as a person who is willing to take risks to solve a case. Older policemen try to brush her off and hush her up but she doesn’t stop. Her mother appeals to her emotional side but she doesn’t stop. She has a real thirst for her work and justice. The book highlights many contrasts between men and women, the old ways and the new, the seemingly legal and the obviously illegal but my favourite aspect is the way that the author makes us feel about how perplexed Anna is about belonging. She is at home in the sunshine of Kanizsa yet much of the help and respect she needs during this case is received was from colleagues and friends she can trust in Finland. Like the quote at the beginning of this review the reader is drawn into the question of what is Anna’s reality?
I enjoyed this book. The pace was good. The story was intriguing. It is well written and skillfully translated. I could feel the sunshine on my skin, smell the refugee camp and was torn up during the emotionally distressing scenes. As well as having an interesting structure the suspense hung in the air until the end. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in contemporary crime fiction.
If you are interested in learning more about Kati Hiekkapelto you can listen to her here or read this or you can come and hear her speak at Granite Noir (Aberdeen) on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26 February 2017.
The Exiled is published in the UK by Orenda Books