Today I’m looking back at my thoughts on book three in the Anna Fekete series by Kati Hiekkapelto, The Exiled. I first reviewed the book back in 2016 as part of a week of Orenda (a week? can you imagine a challenge so trivial 🤨😉) but I have loved catching back up with Anna and learning more about her past over the last couple of books. Before we take a look at my thoughts, here’s what the book is all about:
About the Book
When Finnish police investigator Anna Fekete’s bag is stolen on holiday in the Balkan village of her birth, she is pulled into a murder investigation that becomes increasingly dangerous … and personal. The electrifying third book in the international, bestselling Anna Fekete series.Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Hive | Googleplay | Apple Books
Anna Fekete returns to the Balkan village of her birth for a relaxing summer holiday. But when her bag is stolen and the thief is found dead on the banks of the river, Anna is pulled into a murder case. Her investigation leads straight to her own family and to closely guarded secrets concealing
a horrendous travesty of justice that threatens them all.
As layer after layer of corruption, deceit and guilt are revealed, Anna is caught up in the refugee crisis spreading across Europe. How long before everything explodes?
Chilling, tense and relevant, The Exiled is an electrifying, unputdownable thriller from one of Finland’s most celebrated crime writers.
Let me just start out by saying that ‘The Exiled’ is absolutely brilliant. Set over just a fortnight of Anna’s holiday, the story is a gripping, multi-layered look into a world of deception and cover ups, in which prejudice is worn as a very thin disguise and people are declared guilty of crimes by simple virtue of the community into which they are born.
The theme of separation, of division, is rife throughout the book, from the language barrier between the Hungarian and Serbian speaking residents of Kanizsa, the distant relationship that Anna now has with her family, especially her mother, to the contempt that local residents hold for the Romani community and the growing refugee encampment on the edge of the town. In that respect it is very topical, and Hiekkapelto touches upon socio-economic and political issues which are rife across Europe, not just in Serbia but in all communities and countries affected by uncontrolled immigration and the growing refugee crisis, for example the growing support for far-right politics and nationalism.
The situation is very sympathetically written, the understanding of the refugee crisis, the exploitation and suffering they endure clearly well researched and clearly resonates with the author as it will with the reader. The prejudice on the page is not over played, it is not gratuitous in violence or abuse towards anyone, but it is abundant and it is expressed very clearly without appearing in a judgemental or preaching manner. This is achieved through the subtle, and not so subtle comments and barbs at another’s expense. The prejudgement that all of the Romani are the same; lazy, ignorant. Thieves.
While Anna does not share this view, she is but one visitor in a growing community of haters and the lack of tolerance in the town is not what she is used to. She is not without her scepticism of some of the Romani ways, but she is at the very least accepting of them. She is after all, now merely a visitor in her own country. Not quite an outsider but not truly belonging either. She understands or, should I say follows, few of the local customs anymore, being so more in tune with Finland. She is bewildered by her friends attitudes but constantly chastising herself for comparing one country, one community, one situation against another, the exact thing she criticises them for.
There are so many layers to this book that I can only describe it as being a bit like an onion (and bear with me here). The outer layer, the main premise of the story, is that of the theft of Anna’s bag and the subsequent death of the thief. But as you peel back the layers, one by one, each new layer reveals another element of deception and corruption which builds not only the tension, but the feeling of one almighty cover up. But as to how far this corruption, this blight, infects our story , it is so hard to tell. You need to cut right to the heart of it to find out.
And a bit like chopping an onion, there were times when I felt that I wanted to cry. When exploring the relationship between the young girl Dzsenifer and her brother, of how he protected her and how she missed him, it was so touching. So were the times Anna and her mother thought and spoke of the family that they had both lost. And, as throughout Anna’s investigation the startling truth of the story becomes clear, you cannot help but feel for those impacted by the lies from so many years ago.
The plot is gripping, Anna’s fierce determination to find the truth utterly compelling. Faced with the threat of the Mafia, an anonymous antagonist and so many people lying to her, she will not be deterred. She is focused only on the truth, no matter the personal consequences and I love the grittiness of her character. She has prioritised career over family, and yet her friends and her family, especially her brother, are all important to her. She is human, she is fierce, even stubborn, but she is also engaging and very likeable.
This is the third book in the Anna Fekete series, my first I’m ashamed to admit, and I can clearly see Anna has a bit of history which I am now desperate to go back and learn about. I have books 1 and 2 waiting on my kindle and as soon as I can I shall be joining Anna in her adopted home country of Finland. That said, I didn’t feel at a disadvantage to be entering the series late on. This can easily be read as a standalone. The sense of place I got from reading the way in Kati Hiekkapelto described Serbia, the language and imagery so clear, I almost felt I was there myself. I can only imagine how this will translate into setting in the first two books. And speaking of translation, a flawless job by David Hackston. The fluidity of the text is absolutely perfect.
About the Author
Kati Hiekkapelto was born in 1970 in Oulu, Finland. She wrote her firstcstories 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.
Books by Kati Kiekkapelto