AUTHOR: Kati Hiekkapelto
PUBLISHER: Orenda Books
PUBLICATION DATE: October 10, 2016
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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?
The Exiled is the third book in Kati Hiekkapelto’s Anna Fekete crime series following The Hummingbird and The Defenceless. I read the first two back-to-back last year and found them taut and fairly pacy reads with relevant and interesting contemporary themes. The Exiled is set at a slower pace but it is still the highly compelling kind of read that I love from this author. The premise to this book was one that lingered on my mind every time I put the book down and had me on tenterhooks, looking forward to diving back into the mystery.
With this book, the setting is in the Balkans, rather than Finland, but the author again creates a detailed and vivid image in my mind of the location. Anna Fekete is on holiday visiting her mother in the Balkans when her handbag is stolen. Shortly afterwards it is found, with a few of its contents missing, but the person who stole Anna’s bag is found dead at the scene. This is only the start of a complex and engrossing series of mysteries and secrets that had me guessing throughout. The initial mystery of the handbag thief leads her to considering her own origin and the complexities and secrets within her own family and their past.
Each layer of this book was intriguing and fascinating and the overall feel of The Exiled was suspenseful and unsettling. I enjoyed the book the more I got into it as the slower pace, though great at building tension, took a bit of getting used to. Yet at the same time it made the mystery more satisfying and the concept of the book a more engaging one. My favourite aspect of the book was probably its insight into the European refugee crisis – a theme which I found was made all the more interesting for its current relevance in the real world. The author insightfully explores the story of gypsies, immigrants and refugees with all the judgments they are faced with and their representation within society. Whilst this was fascinating, the lies and corruption surrounding the refugees pushed the theme even further and had me very engrossed in the story.
The Exiled combined all the aspects I love about a crime novel. The prose is atmospheric and evocatively described by the author, delivering to the reader a colourful sense of place which allows you to place and picture the action in the book perfectly. The mystery is multi-layered and never lets up – the twists kept on coming and any guesses kept on being proved wrong. The characterisation was great, not just for Anna Fekete whose investigative mindset I am liking more and more with each book but for each of the characters in this book, secondary or otherwise, the author crafts them and builds them up well, making them recognisable and believable. Overall I found The Exiled to be a worthy third book in the series with a strong sense of mystery that was both captivating and unpredictable.