The Exiled by Kati Hiekkapelto
Murder. Corruption. Dark secrets. A titanic wave of refugees. Can Anna solve a terrifying case that’s become personal? Anna Fekete returns to the Balkan village of her birth for a relaxing summer holiday. But when her purse 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, 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 like wildfire across Europe. How long will it take before everything explodes? Chilling, taut and relevant, The Exiled is an electrifying, unputdownable thriller from one of Finland’s most celebrated crime writers.
Anne Fekete a Finnish police investigator within the violent crimes unit, returns to her mother’s Balkan village of Kanizsa, for a summer holiday and hopefully a break from crime. On her first night there, she attends a wine festival with friends Tibor, Nora and Erno. Whilst drinking wine and taking selfies, they are easily distracted and Anna’s handbag is stolen. Aware that her credit cards and passport have possibly been stolen to sell, Anna finds herself the victim of a crime for once. Her friends attempt to apprehend the muggers, an adult male and young girl, but they flee into the night! The chase leads them to the Roma/gypsy quarter, where Anna comes across Judit for the first time. The next day the unidentified dead body of the mugger, is found on the banks of Tisza. Anna can’t shake the feeling that this all leads to something much, much bigger than a stolen handbag and where is the young girl, Anne saw?
I found this novel very atmospheric in terms of location, it is a very unique setting and I can see it being very popular within the crime fiction genre. The novel also centres around the very real issue of refugees; which makes it very relevant and thought provoking. With media in the west currently reporting on ‘mass immigration’ from Syria, Iran, Somalia, Iraq and Kosovan Gypsies all heading towards the EU. Why do we as a society label immigrants/refugees and feel it is acceptable to condemn people fleeing war in search of a better life?
The Chief of police appears uninterested in the case and systematically points out that they are not local victims but Roma. Almost as if Roma means being less than human. Despite repeated requests from the police and her mother, Anna decides to investigate. Tracking down the little girl, visiting refugee camps, obtaining CCTV footage, requesting the pathology report and visiting the scene of the crime are all ways Anna gains more and more information. The Yugoslav war, remains in the backdrop and we see its relevance on Anna’s background and the history of the village. Anna witnesses the desperation, poverty and the hopelessness of the refugee camp. Then sees the anger, hatred and tension of the growing far right members. Feeling under pressure to solve the case, Anna digs deeper and deeper into the evidence. As all the clues, links and evidence start to connect; Anna can see this case is a part of something much larger and more corrupt than she first believed, with links right back into Anna’s family history and the death of her father.
I absolutely loved this book. It was the perfect mixture of a modern and realistic plot and a very good mystery. It definitely highlights the problems faced by the refugee community and it’s heart-breaking at times. It was my first by the author but I will definitely be reading more in future. A thoroughly gripping and educational 5* read!
*Huge thanks to Karen at Orenda and the author, for my copy of The Exiled in return for an honest review.