The defenceless by Kati Hiekkapelto

Defenceless B- format front

The Defenceless by Kati Hiekkapelto

Finnish crime novel

original title – Suojattomat

Translator – David Hackson

Source – review copy


I come only with my punishment
There comes only my conviction
is my fate Running
In order to deceive the law
Lost in the heart
of the Great Babylon
They call me the Clandestine *
’cause I do not carry any identity papers

To a northern city
i went for work
I left my life behind
Between Ceuta and Gibraltar
I’m a just a rake on the sea
A ghost in the city
My life is prohibited

I choose the English translation of the Lyrics to Clandstine by Manu Chao a song about being an immigrant.

This is the first of three books from a new publisher Orenda books , which is run by Karen who used work for Arcadia books who published kati’s first book in English the Hummingbird .Kati Hiekkapelto is a prize winning finnish writer, she is also punk singer, performance artist and a special needs teacher (earns my respect as someone whoi supports people with learning disablities ,I know how hard it is to be a teacher ).She also lives on an isolated island in the very north of Finland .She also which is maybe the seed for this book taught Hungarians in the region of Serbia that has a large Hungarian population .This book won the 2014 best Finnish crime novel .

Sammy had arrived in Finland in the same manner and using the same route as the heroin that he knew so well, smuggled in to feed the hungry veins of Western Europeans: hidden in a truck belching thick exhaust fumes and driven across the endless steppes of Russia, illegally

The heroin continued on its way ; Sammy had stayed put

The opening lines and someone  is just  like drugs just a thing to be moved alive or dead they don’t mind these gangs.

Its been a while since I covered a number of  translated crime novel on this blog so to get sent three of what is the most popular genre for books in translation is a refresher for me of the genre so the first stop in the trio of Orenda books is Finland and the second book in the Anna Fekete series . The book starts when a body is found dead in the middle of the road .He may have been killed by a Hungarian Au-pair this is the case Anna Fekete is given  this case rings with her own past .Meanwhile her police partner Esko  is stuck in a case of trying to track a gang that are bring illegal immigrants to the Finland. As the two police officers follow each of the case like a candle burning a both ends a discovery brings the two case to an explosive end .Add to that a biker gangs one native Finns the other immigrants.

Anna sighed. She felt sorry for Gabriella: she would probably receive a minor punishment, but whatever it was the sentence would be a blow. It would be a nasty blot on her record. Would she ever get a job again ? At same time Anna felt a foul sense of satisfaction . Not exactly Shadenfreude, but something similar. What is about that girl that bothered me, she wondered. Why do I think this somehow serves her right?

The au pair gets off but is still involved as the case takes a twist .

I have read a number of Nordic crime novels during the time of this blog, For me The defenceless is up among the best. Anna Fekete leaps of the page, in this up to date novel .How often have we turn the TV on the last few years and seen stories about Immigrants and illegal gangs that bring them into countries what hiekapelto has done is taken that and used a crime novel to dissect the story from both ends the people who arrive in the country and the dreadful gangs that bring these people in dangerous circumstances. Kati has brought these threads together in what is a great Nordic crime novel with a slice of social conscience. I will be back with the other books from Orenda books .

Have you read any crime novel that tackle topical topics in their novels ?

When the doves disappeared by Sofi Oksanen




When the doves disappeared by Sofi Oksanen

Finnish fiction

Original title –  Kun kyyhkyset katosivat

Translator – Lola M Rogers

source – review copy

Dig if you will a picture
Of you and I engaged in a kiss
The sweat of your body covers me
Can you my darling
Can you picture this?
Dream if you can a courtyard
An ocean of violets in bloom
Animals strike curious poses
They feel the heat
The heat between me and you

How can you just leave me standing?
Alone in a world that’s so cold (So cold)
Maybe I’m just too demanding
Maybe I’m just like my father too bold
Maybe you’re just like my mother
She’s never satisfied (She’s never satisfied)
Why do we scream at each other?
This is what it sounds like
When doves cry

I choose this as when I read the book I kept calling it when doves cry not when the doves disappeared .I although you can read more into the prince lyrics like you can read more into this book .

Sofi first book in English was one of those rare books in translation that breaks out of the circle of translated readers and gets to a wider audience ,so how to follow-up that success ,well When the doves disappeared was for a me good choice it is based in a similar era to the first book Purge  and also is a story of two people like the first book .But that is where the similarity end . Sofi Oksanen is fast become a huge star of Nordic fiction ,winning the finlandia , nordic prize and the first finnish women to win the Swedish Nordic prize , she has also been women of the year in \Estonia which is part of her shared heritage finnish Estonian .So my fourth women in translation month read sees us going to Finland .

I knew that once Estonia was free again , people of good conscience would want to examine these years , and that would have to be evidence that we acted according to the law , But such thorough record keeping was a risk we couldn’t afford ,The acts of the bolsheviks had already proved that pur country and our homes where under the control of barbarians .

they look at 1941 at what they are doing now how it will be looked at in years to come .

The book is set in the Baltic state of Estonia and is the tale of two cousins Roland a freedom fighter and man of principal and his cousin Edgar a slippery man who when the German comes joins them and leaves both his cousin and his wife Juudit .The story is told in two eras  1941 just as Estonia is about to fall to the russians  and 1963 as the country is no under the stranglehold of the Soviet regime .The first era follows the fall then the Germans taking control of Estonia and Edgar rise as he sees a new Estonia under the Germans , but this is the frontline and this brief time of German rule is about to be wiped out by Stalin . The second era in the book shows how twenty years of Stalin and post Stalin rule has had on the country and the three main character in this book .

Comrade Part’s instinct was correct .In the list from 1944 he found a familiar name .Just a name , no date of death or indication of transfer to another camp or evacuation to germany ,A name he wished had been someone else’s .Anyone else’s .He had been searching for any name he recognized , but this was the very name he didn’t want to find , a name that felt like if he pronounced it out loud his tongue would be covered in blisters ,A name that shouldn’t even be on the list .Roland Simson.

Who is Part’s ? and is Roland really dead ?

I actually enjoyed this more than Purge , for me Edgar and Roland reflect two human characters the brave man and the coward . It shows how easy it is to get on if you try to be something you’re not when Edgar does when he joins the Nazis . But it also shows the cost of being brave and sticking to your guns . But most of all it shows how hopeless both sides are under the soviet regime years ago .The book is told at a fast pace jumping between the forties and sixties as we see the story of the three characters and the greater story of Estonia .This book is a worthy follow-up to purge from a rising star of Nordic fiction .

Have you read this or Purge ?

Comapartment No.6 by Rosa Liksom


Compartment No.6 by Rosa Liksom

Finnish fiction

Original title – Hytti nro 6

Translator – Lola Rogers

Source -Review copy

The soul is placed in the body like a rough diamond, and must be polished, or the luster of it will never appear.

Daniel Defoe

Well when this dropped though my door ,it was one I put straight to the top of the pile ,I’ve enjoyed all the recent books from Finland ,That I’ve read have been gems ,plus I’ve always had a fondness for books set on trains so two ticks meant it was a must read .Well Rosa Liksom is a Finnish based writer ,she is also a well-known artist in Finland .She has written 13 other books ,this Compartment No.6 is the latest by her ,it won the Finlandia prize in 2011 .

When the station bell rang for the second time she saw a muscular ,cauliflower-eared man in a black  working mans quilted jacket and a white ermine hat and with him a beautiful dark-haired woman and her teenage son ,keeping  close to his mother .

When she first sees Vadim Nikolayevich Ivanov on the station platform at Moscow .

Compartment No.6 Follows a train ride from Moscow on the Trans Siberian ,an unnamed finnish girl boards the train ,she searches and finds an empty compartment and settles down ,then her silence is shattered when a grizzled looking fellow enters the carriage , He then starts talking to the girl and telling her the story of his life at first she is a bit like a rabbit caught in the headlights not quite knowing what to do ,but as the train speeds through the russian hinterlands she warms to this rough diamond and maybe sees part of her own life in his stories ,as the train is stopped they experience the rough conditions of the Soviet era ,this is the late eighties ,initially the girls thoughts are on getting to Mongolia and see some cave paintings as she is an art student and meeting an old friend but as her and Vadium (the man ) ,grow see maybe sees her life in a wider view outside the life she grew up in .

The night speeds through the dark into dim morning , a dogged queue at the shrine of the WC , a dry wash among the puddles of pee ,sputum ,shame and sheepish looks ,shadows of steaming tea glasses in the window ,large flat cubes of Cuban sugar ,paper light Aluminium spoons ,black bread ,viola cheese ..

She captures life on the train so well the sights and sounds of Soviet life at that time .

Well this is one of those books you can tell came from a love of the writer ,it turns out the writer took a journey on the same train in 1986 ,where she herself shared a compartment with a Russian man .Rosa Liksom has the artist eye for detail so the little things of life in Soviet era Russia are caught so well .For me the story remind me of a very old friend that over the years I lost touch with but Like Vadium was a rough diamond ,yes I remembered my fist meeting Steve and thinking god this bloke is just awful he was a friend of a friend but then over the next few meeting ,I saw through the swearing tales of his very hard upbringing and got to know one of the kindest souls I ever met and regret losing touch with ,That said Vadium isn’t quite such a kind heart soul but he is more than he first appeared to the Girl and he is the person that opens her eyes on her world ,so like me with steve this is someone she will remember for the rest of her life .Rather like the last lines of  the film Stand by me ,a writer remember a friend and journey in younger life .

Have you a favourite book based on a train ?


The Human Part by Kari Hotakainen


The Human Part by Kari Hotakainen

Finnish Fiction

Original title – Ihmisen osa

Translator – Owen F Witesman

Source – review copy

Well day two of Maclehose press celebration here on Winstonsdad .I now move north from Italy to Finland and one of the most acclaimed writers Kari Hotakinen .He is a multi talented writer .He started as both a poet and Journalist,he is a columnist for the finnish newspaper   Helsingin Sanomat. He started writing novels in the mid nineties  this is his tenth novel,and his latest and the first I’ve read by him .It won the Runeberg prize Sofi Oksanen has also previously won this prize which awarded every year . .

My name is Salme Sinikka Malmikunnas ,and everything that I say will be printed word for word in this book .The author promised me this .In alarm he even suggested that my words be printed in italics ,which apparently emphasizes the importance of the words .

The opening lines of the novel .

So the premise of The human part is a sort off retelling of the old story of some one selling their life to someone else .In this case it is Salame an elderly lady who ran a button shop ,the cover is rather clever a red thread flows through the city and back to Salame at the bottom , she happens to  meets a writer he has writers block and is looking for a story ,so after much persuading and a wad of money she agrees to sell him her life story she had four but only three are still alive and they all have their own problems but their ,mother tends to view their lives with rose-tinted specs .So she starts her story  to the writer ,tell the story of herself ,husband  and her childrens lives .But what is the writer putting down in  writing as she speaks  and is her vision of the family the same as his vision of her family ? What will he write about her kids lives ? ,What will he make of the dark secret that lies at the back of the family ? All this and more is revealed as you move through her life and that of her kids as well  .

The author interrupted to say that he didn’t intend to turn the Dictaphone on for the whole time we were meeting .As he said this he took a notepad and pencil out of  his pocket .I said he needed to put those away while I was speaking as well .The author shock his head and reminded me that he had paid for goods that he would be taking with him in some form ,

The telling of her tale begins .

So its easy to see Salame and the writers pact to sell her story  to him .As a twist on the old Faustian tale of selling your soul to the devil of course the writer isn’t the devil but he does  makes Salame  begin of view her life in a darker way than she did  .the book is also a clever critic on modern Life in Finland but not just Finland ,we all see the world our own ways and we all see our families one way , because they are our family .This book yet again shows we live in an age of changing values of  the general public  and how much  people willing to reveal all about themselves if the  money  is right .Via this story we see pain and suffering with in the family unit in modern Finland  .This is a book that even thou it is set in Finland  , can ring true to every one in this modern world  .

Have you a favourite Finnish writer ?


The brothers by Asko Sahlberg

the brothers

The brothers by Asko Sahlberg

Finnish fiction

Ordinal title – He (they in finnish )

Translator – Emily Jeremiah and Fleur Jeremiah

Source review copy

Asko Sahlberg is a Finnish writer he has written 10 novels and radio plays ,he has been up for the Nordic council prize and the Finlandia prize as well .He has previously work as a journalist and in advertising before turning to writing full-time ,he said about his writing “part only partly link in the chain, part of a long literary tradition” .This was his ninth novel and the first to be translated to English .

I have barely caught the crunch of snow and I know who is coming .Henrik treads heavily and unhurriedly as is his wont ,grinding his feet into the earth ,The brothers are so different .Erik walks fast ,with light steps ,he is always in a hurry ,here then gone .

The farm hand hears Henrik returning .

So The brothers does what it says on the cover and that it is the story of a pair of brothers .Henrik and Erik .The action is set in 1809 as Finland is fought over between Russia and Sweden .Peace has come and the brothers return to their farm ,having fought on opposing sides during the war .One brother Henrik  lost his girlfriend during the war and is returning after a long time away from the farm and his family .Then there is also Erik’s  wife ,the farm hand and the horse  to name a few .This book is told in sections by the characters so we see the story unfold bit by bit , of how awkward the rejoining of these two brothers .The house is full of tension as we finds the brothers at one point had been face to face on the field of battle .

This house is a cadaver .The others are too close to see it ,but it has already begun to decompose ,I flinch from its decay .It is a collection of bones had been unearthed and dressed in fine clothing to create the illusion of a real body

Henrik talking about his family’s farm


Well this is one of those books I read and got scared how to describe ,yet again Meike has shown her strength in choosing books for Peirene .This book so fits the theme of last years Peirene’s which was the year of small epics ,at 120 pages long thinking back on reading it and how I felt after I imagined it was a thick book because it seemed to convey so much about life brotherhood , Finland sex what it is to be a man  and death .It is compared to Shakespeare and such luminaries on the cover and yes there are parts that do compare with richard the thirds in place a story around the horse and the great line my kingdom for a horse may come to mind . but I felt it maybe does have origins in Scandinavian art  ,Sahlberg as a radio play  writer must have come across   the Danish film group Dogme 95 where the action is set mainly in one place and this book is the same the action is all at the farm-house although they talk about the past  present and future  .I was most remind of the Lars von Trier film Dogville which like this is set in one place and has some on appearing  like Henrik and changing what happens .Another point may even be the Finnish Epic Poem the Kalevala a sort of collection of Finnish folktales that formed the basis of Finland and early Finnish culture .A fine job has been done by the mother daughter team that translated this book .

Have you read this book ?

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