Tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of the publication of The Defenceless, book two in the Anna Fekete series, but the first one published by Orenda Books. As I have read both books two and three, it felt rude not to go back and see where it all began for Anna so here I am, reviewing The Hummingbird, the book that first introduced Anna to the world. Here’s what the book is all about.
About the Book
Anna Fekete, who fled the Yugoslavian wars as a child, has a past.Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Hive | Apple Books
Just beginning her career as a criminal investigator in a northern Finnish coastal town, she is thrust into a high-profile, seemingly unsolvable case that has riveted the nation. It doesn’t help that her middle-aged new partner, Esko, doesn’t bother hiding his racist prejudices, and Anna becomes the target of a systematic campaign to unsettle her.
A young woman has been killed on a running trail, and a pendant depicting an Aztec god has been found in her possession. Another murder soon follows. All signs point to a serial killer, but can Anna catch the Hummingbird before he – or she – strikes again? And at what personal cost? Dark, gritty and filled with contemporary themes, this is a chilling, unforgettable book that you will find impossible to put down. Or forget.
Well what a first day on the job! Not one but two pretty serious cases landing on the desks of Anna and her new colleagues leaving her absolutely no time to settle in to her new role. Firstly they are faced with a potential case of honour violence, a young Kurdish girl , Bihar, who placed an emergency call to the police claiming her family planned to kill her, but who later recants with a rather fantastical alternate story. Secondly they are faced with the brutal murder of a young female jogger who is shot whilst on an isolated coastal jogging path. The area is known for its hunters and Finland is in the midst of their hunting season, so is this an accidental death or something far more sinister? Well we don’t have long to wait as the discovery of a second victim puts paid to any remaining doubts the team may have had that this was anything but murder.
This is a complex case and a perfect way in which to get to know more about our protagonist, Anna Fekete as she battles to get to grips with her new role, her new team and especially her new partner, Esko. It is fair to say that they do not get off to the most auspicious of starts. Esko is gruff, racist, sexist and a not so closet alcoholic who takes an instant dislike to Anna, making her first few days, weeks even, hell. Whilst Anna is far from perfect herself, and not necessarily the easiest of characters to get to know – highly guarded and emotionally distant – Esko takes the prejudice and the obvious disdain for his colleague to a whole new level. It leaves you wondering if he has any redeeming qualities at all. And yet it seems all of the main characters in this book have the capacity to surprise the reader, several of them showing other sides to their character, and yet it would be remiss to write any of them off. Not yet at least.
What I love about this series of books is the way in which Kati Hiekkapelto dives into some serious issues alongside the more usual or expected investigations for this genre. Yes, it is fair to say that the murders do take up the lion’s share of the action and the attention when it comes to the storyline, but we are never that far away from Bihar’s story. Anna is almost obsessed with the notion that the girl is in trouble, refusing to let the case go, even when her boss, Virkkunen, decides there is little more that they can do. Through Anna’s thoughts and BIhar’s eyewitness testimony throughout the novel, the author explores the whole notion of the honour system, of arranged marriages and the strictest observance of the Muslim religion. The story is told without necessarily passing down any moral judgement, but instead allowing the reader to make up their own mind about what is really happening in Bihar’s home life.
This is case full of ups and downs, suspects who come and go as alibi’s are proven or otherwise. It is perplexing as there is no clear link between the victims, no reason for two so very different people to have been killed, making pinning down a motive extremely difficult. It is only as we move towards the end of the novel that things finally start to become clear. As the final victim is revealed, so is the reason for the killings, but discovery comes at a cost and could prove deadly for more than one of the team. It is here that the pacing picks up as they home in on the culprit and Anna’s fears about Bihar also prove to have some merit.
This is a thought provoking read, full of authentic and diverse characters, not all of whom I could profess to liking, but I did like the character of Anna. Perfectly imperfect, her own immigrant status as a Hungarian who spent most of her life growing up in Finland, giving her a natural empathy towards those who are slightly different whereas some of her colleagues appear quick to write them off. It’s a book that slowly draws you in without you realising it and keeps you invested in the what why and wherefore right to the last.
About the Author
Kati Hiekkapelto was born in 1970 in Oulu, Finland. She wrote her first stories at the age of two and recorded them on cassette tapes. Kati has studied Fine Arts in Liminka Art School and Special Education at the University of Jyväskylä. The subject of her final thesis/dissertation was racist bullying in Finnish schools. She went on to work as a special-needs teacher for immigrant children. Today Kati is an international crime writer, punk singer and performance artist. Her books, The Hummingbird and The Defenceless have been translated into ten languages. The Hummingbird was shortlisted for the Petrona Award in the UK in 2015 and The Defenceless won the prize for the best Finnish Crime Novel of the Year 2014, and has been shortlisted for the prestigious Glass Key. She lives and writes in her 200-year-old farmhouse in Hailuoto, an island in the Gulf of Bothnia, North Finland. In her free time she rehearses with her band, runs, hunts, picks berries and mushrooms, and gardens. During long, dark winter months she chops wood to heat her house, shovels snow and skis. Writing seems fairly easy, after all that.