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The Defenceless

Published Date: 22nd December 2014

Available in


July 2015
September 2015
September 2015


When an old man is found dead on the road – seemingly run over by a Hungarian au pair – police investigator Anna Fekete is certain that there is more to the incident than meets the eye. As she begins to unravel an increasingly complex case, she’s led on a deadly trail where illegal immigration, drugs and, ultimately, murder threaten not only her beliefs, but her life.

Anna’s partner Esko is entrenched in a separate but equally dangerous investigation into the activities of an immigrant gang, where deportation orders and raids cause increasing tension and result in desperate measures by gang members – and the police themselves.

Then a bloody knife is found in the snow, and the two cases come together in ways that no one could have predicted. As pressure mounts, it becomes clear that having the law on their side may not be enough for Anna and Esko.

Chilling, disturbing and terrifyingly believable, The Defenceless is an extraordinary, vivid and gripping thriller by one of the most exciting new voices in crime fiction.



THE HUMMINGBIRD was shortlisted for the Petrona Award, 2015

‘A taut and provocative thriller with a raging social conscience … cements Kati Hiekkapelto’s position as one of Scandi-noir’s most exciting and important new voices’ Eva Dolan

‘An edgy and insightful chiller with a raw and brooding narrative. Skilfully plotted and beautifully written, Hiekkapelto has given us an excellent and suspenseful crime novel’ Craig Robertson

‘Tough and powerful crime fiction’ Publishers Weekly

A writer willing to take risks with her work’ Sarah J. Ward

‘Seriously good! The taut elegance of the writing brilliantly contrasts the grit of the subject matter. Kati Hiekkapelto is the real deal’ Anya Lipska

‘It’s like reading Henning Mankell, when Senior Constable Anna Fekete works on several tricky cases in the icy-cold winter of Northern Finland while contemplating the harshness of life’ Helsingin Sanomat 

‘As the plot keeps deepening, Hiekkapelto turns out to be incredibly skilful at carrying off a complicated story … the suspense feels real and the writing flows nicely’ Savon Sanomat 

‘Hiekkapelto really treats her readers like royalty. The plot – with all its twists, its humorous yet wise narration – guarantees a perfect reading experience. I’m sorry for the superlatives, but I believe The Defenceless is the Book of the Year for me’ Literary Blog Rakkaudesta Kirjoihin

Book of the week, Crime Thriller

‘Rapidly becoming a familiar face on the Nordic noir scene in the UK (and British readers always warm to those Scandinavian writers prepared to travel frequently to these shores), the Finnish Kati Hiekkapelto deserves her growing reputation (finessed by a relatively new publisher, Orenda Books), as her individual writing identity is subtly unlike that of her colleagues. Rarely do her books read like any of her illustrious predecessors, and her socially committed style acquires more polish with each successive book.’ Barry Forshaw, Crime Time

‘There is something fresh and slightly subversive about Hiekkapelto’s writing in The Defenceless. Apparently, the author is also the singer in a punk band – there is something of that restless energy here, a nod to anti-authoritarian and countercultural ideas that makes the novel stand out from the pack’ Doug Johnstone, The Big Issue

Wonderful Q&A with Kati! Irish Times

Top 10 Books of 2015, Steph’s Book Blog

Top 5 Books 2015, Marina Sofia for Crime Fiction Lover

Top 10 of 2015, Dave Hardy

Top books of 2015, Louise Reviews

Recommended Read – Crime Fiction Lover

Shortlisted for The Petrona Award

Shortlisted for the coveted Glass Key Award

Shortlisted for Captivating Crime in Translation at the 2016 Dead Good Read Awards


Kati Hiekkapelto is a bestselling author, punk singer, performance artist and special-needs teacher. She lives on an old farm on the island of Hailuoto in Northern Finland, where she is currently setting up a retreat for writers and artists in danger. Kati has taught immigrants and lived in the Hungarian region of Serbia, which inspired her to write her highly regarded debut crime novel, The Hummingbird, which was shortlisted for the Petrona Award, and published in six languages to date. The Defenceless won best Finnish Crime Novel of 2014 and will be up for the coveted Glass Key in 2016. Kati is currently working on the third novel in the Anna Fekete series.



David Hackston is a British translator of Finnish and Swedish literature and drama. He graduated from University College London in 1999 with a degree in Scandinavian Studies and now lives in Helsinki where he works as a freelance translator.

Notable publications include The Dedalus Book of Finnish Fantasy, Maria Peura’s coming-of-age novel At the Edge of Light, Johanna Sinisalo’s eco-thriller Birdbrain and two crime novels by Matti Joensuu. David is currently working on a translation of Riku Korhonen’s latest novelSleep Close. His drama translations include three plays by Heini Junkkaala, most recently Play it, Billy! (2012) about the life and times of jazz pianist Billy Tipton. David is also a regular contributor to Books from Finland. In 2007 he was awarded the Finnish State Prize for Translation.

David is also a professional countertenor and is currently studying early music and performance practice at Helsinki Metropolia University. He is a founding member of the English Vocal Consort of Helsinki.

Online Reviews

‘Kati Hiekkapelto’s second novel has fully delivered on all of the promise of her first. The Defenceless is a gritty crime novel with a pulsing vein of social realism. It is entertainment with a conscience, fiction with heart-rending insight into the real lives of people on the fringes of our own societies’ Live Many Lives

Writing The Defenceless, by Kati Heikkapelto Guest blog on Crime Thriller Girl site

‘Could there be a more topical book in Europe 2015 than one about the problems of immigration, and the scourge of drug gangs? The police procedural with a team of detectives working with Anna and Esko, and the social commentary reminded me of the Martin Beck books by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. There can be no better recommendation for this brilliant book.’ Crime Scraps

‘The novel is well paced and its numerous mysteries provide plenty of forward momentum and suspense. What I liked about the plot was that the mysteries were of varying types, and this made me want to read on as chapters shift between aspects of the plot.’ Vicky Newham

‘From the outset this book ticks so many of the boxes that Scandinavian crime fiction lovers look for in their favourite crime sub-genre and here’s why …The real stand-out feature of this book is the strength and balance of Hiekkapelto’s plotting. A gripping slice of Scandi-noir’ Raven Crime Reads

‘I loved this! There was something about it that made it feel, to me at least, more like real-life than a lot of crime novels do. It has a wonderful twisty plot with a multitude of threads running round each other, and even the smallest detail comes back as an important part of the investigation’ Our Book Reviews

‘In her follow-up novel, Kati Hiekkapelto weaves a complex multi-layered narrative that forces the reader to re-evaluate long standing opinions. More strident than its predecessor, the book uses the crime fiction genre to shine a torch onto under-reported social problems.’ Andy Lawrence, Crime Time

Interview by Marina Sofia for Crime Fiction Lover

‘This is the second of the Anna Fekete series but I had no trouble jumping in and catching up with her story so far, though I don’t think too much about the previous story The Hummingbird has been given away. Kati Hiekkapelto might just be my new favourite Nordic Noir writer – I’m certainly looking forward to reading more by her.’ Our Book Reviews Online 

With The Defenceless you’re so caught up in the characters, the sub plots and the hunt for what appears to be a brutal killer that when the killer’s identity and motive are revealed it comes like a bolt from the blue. It brings to (my) mind the reveal in Håkan Nesser’s The Unlucky Lottery. The translation – by David Hackston – should also receive the strongest nod of approval; at no point in reading The Defenceless was there any indication that this was anything other than the language the novel was written in and the deft translation ensures that the novel’s momentum and feel flows uninterpreted across the language transition’ Tony Hill, Mumbling About Music

‘Chilling, disturbing and terrifyingly believable, The Defenceless is an extraordinary, vivid and gripping thriller by one of the most exciting new voices in crime fiction’ Northern Crime

‘This is a novel of multiple strands which Anna only gradually begins to unravel, as she does so finding herself mired in the complexities of illegal immigration, drug dealers, gang warfare and murder’ Claire Thinking

‘This isn’t easy reading. It is not a cosy crime drama. It is a thought-provoking, at times dark read, that is also a commentary on asylum seekers and those who decide who stays and who goes’ Janet Emson, From First Page to Last

Interview with the fabulous NZ Crime Watch (aka Craig Sisterson)

‘There is that there is a magnificent sensation of location to be experienced when you read. Although I have never been to Finland Kati Hiekkapelto made dark woods and icy cold Finish towns come alive around me.’ Grab This Book

Kati Hiekkapelto’s guest blog on why she wrote The Defenceless Shots magazine

‘The characters are likeable and easy to believe, flawed but not annoyingly so. While Anna is clearly our heroine and lead character and Esko is her foil in the police department, he isn’t a two-dimensional racist bad-guy. Both main characters are fully-developed with their positive characteristics and their flaws. I probably like Esko a little more than I’m supposed to but Hiekkapelto has written him in such a well-rounded manner that it’s hard not to have some sympathy for him.’ Louise Reviews

‘Kati Hiekkapelto brings us a second outing for Police Investigator Anne Fekete with a stunning thriller The Defenceless, and easy to see why this was the best Finnish Crime Novel of 2014. This is a brilliantly written Scandi-noir that is at times provocative with a wonderful social conscience that challenges our own prejudices’ The Reading Room

‘As a portrait of a (literally) cold new world, yet lightened by a degree of kindness and empathy, this would be hard to beat. It is a book with great heart.’ Blue Book Balloon

‘In addition to the crimes and Anna’s life, we are given a microscope on the plight of an individual refugee. How they are prepared to live in desperate circumstances as opposed to being captured and killed in their own country for religious reasons as in this case or because their country was at war and they wanted to escape the horrors … I love this book’ Crème de la Crème Crime

‘I found The Defenceless to be an impressive step-up from The Hummingbird which is not to say that her first book wasn’t good. It was. Really good. It’s just that the writing here feels more comfortable and assured and the relationships between the characters that appear in both books have grown and provide subplots that give insight and depth to the controlling idea of the story. Anna Fekete will continue to be a favourite leading lady of mine simply because of the way she deals with the slings and arrows of her everyday existence. Excellent’ Grant Nichol, Volcanic Lilypad

‘A brilliant read. Cleverly plotted with a great character presence. A great pace and never trips over it’s heels. A must read for any crime fiction fan – and Nordic police procedural. Full praise for Kati Hiekkapelto, and another great novel from Orenda Books. Excellent!!’ Dave Hardy

‘Despite of what my introduction may suggest and of the several plotlines that we’ll find in this book, I found it’s easy to read and a police procedural extremely interesting. The social consciousness of the author is undeniable, and it’s very well written, or at least that’s what it appears to me. The characters are very powerful and look to be made of flesh and blood’ J Escribano, A Crime Is Afoot

The Defenceless is a powerful read tackling illegal immigration and the role of gang members in exacerbating the desperation of migrant workers. Hiekkapelto is unflinching in her chilling descriptions and, once more, it is her police investigator protagonist, Anna Fekete, who dominates the narrative’ Sarah J. Ward, Crime Pieces

‘Just when you thought Kati Hiekkapelto couldn’t get any better … The plotting of this book is complex and tight with myriad, seemingly disparate, strands being juggled effortlessly and with complete plausibility. This is a taut thriller with intelligent writing which reminded me of Ian Rankin. I would hugely recommend’ For Reading Addicts  

‘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 off the page, in this up-to-date novel … a great Nordic crime novel with a slice of social conscience. I will be back with the other books from Orenda Books’ Stuart J Allen, Winston’s Dad

‘Fast-paced, creepy and sometimes very emotional. This is my first book by this author, but it certainly won’t be the last’ Chick Library Cat

‘If you take the definition that Nordic Noir “typically features dark storylines and bleak urban settings” and also “incorporate larger social issues into the narrative of police work” then The Defenceless is a perfect example.  The translation is absolutely seamless, there wasn’t a moment when the writing reminded me that I was reading something which wasn’t originally written in English.’ Novel Heights

‘Hiekkapelto delivers more than a crime thriller, she does an exceptional job sketching characters, their challenges and position perplexing her audience. She draws enough of both plot and character back story’s sans dramatics to pique readers interest and curiosity. Fantastic crime thriller from an authoress not lacking boldness and freshness. Kati Hiekkapelto adds diversity and sophistication to already well crafted noir’ My Book Self

‘Only the second installment of a series set in northern Finland, the book tackles the subject of immigration from many angles and gives a strong indication that Hiekkapelto is set to walk in the footsteps of writers as diverse as Sjöwall and Wahlöö and Sara Paretsky who choose the crime genre as an overlay for incisive social commentary’ Reactions to Reading

Interview with Kati Hiekkapelto on Radio Gorgeous, talking about The Defenceless. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

‘This is a cracking read … cleverly written with twists and turns galore’ Tracy Shephard

‘Kati Hiekkapelto’s topic for her novel is of a current world issue. With racism, gangs and even asylum rearing it’s ugly head.  She captures a very deep and thought provoking picture of Finland and it’s way of life. The descriptions are quite distinct which makes this an involving tale. The snow and cold really does get to you’ Postcard Reviews

I have seen Orenda’s name about and have also been following them on Twitter without too much thought about their books. It was by reading novels by Kati Hiekkapelto and Antti Tuomainen that I did some research into the independent publishers and and am now in awe of Karen Sullivan who started the company. Her aim is to publish excellent fiction and if that happens to be an author’s second or third novel (even in a series) so be it – incredibly brave in the publishing world. Orenda titles like visiting a private art gallery like the Wallace Collection in London or New York’s Frick Collection where every painting is enjoyable to view because it was collected by someone who enjoys art. Anyway, I hope to read a lot more Orenda books this year’ Orange Pekoe Reviews

‘Winner of the best Finnish Crime Novel of 2014, Kati Hiekkapelto’s The Defenceless is faultless. A stunning opening, tightly plotted procedurals, intelligent writing, sharp social commentary, complex characters and a surprise ending, what more could you want’ Crime Thriller Hound

‘Struggles with drugs and alcoholic are never far from the surface in The Defenceless and cases entwine as the tension rises in this excellent novel which follows on from Hiekkapelto’s The Hummingbird but works as a standalone.’ Crime Thriller Hound

‘Hiekkapelto depicts the Finland that is now, not the Finland that was in the past, or the country of saunas, lakes, and social welfare that still exists in people’s imaginations. The icy and slippery streets people would rather avoid by staying in, the perpetual darkness outside of closed curtains, too dark to be looked at really, the winter that sends a few migrating birds your way to get your hopes up, then closes around you again, refusing to let go. The people who don’t know their neighbours. The country that, for the first time, is faced with illegal immigrants that simply disappear from all official records. People who are defenceless faced with the system, with their addictions and shortcomings, with violence. The novel also asks many questions about justice. Is the law always right, or is it acceptable to lie to save yourself from certain death? Hiekkapelto fits well into the Finnish literary tradition of books that offer social critique’ One Day I Will Read

BBC World Service interview

Praise for The Hummingbird

‘For a first novel The Hummingbird delivers a lot. The perspectives on immigration feel genuine and are insightful and the writing is atmospheric and absorbing. The two police investigations, one official and one not, are balanced well and the characters are rounded and appealing such that you want to know what will happen next in both their professional and personal lives. A second instalment is on the way and I look forward to following the careers of both Anna Fekete and Kati Hiekkapelto’ Live Many Lives

‘She has a wonderful natural style and narrative flow, as well as a talent for creating memorable, intriguing characters. I will look forward to Anna’s further adventures and the blossoming of her relationship with her colleagues’ CrimeFictionLover

‘If you’re a fan of Swedish crime queen Camilla Läckberg, you’ll love Hiekkapelto’ Kaleva

‘A confident, thrilling crime novel that credibly depicts the everyday life of the Finnish police’ Me Naiset

‘Extremely promising Northern noir’ Helsingin Sanomat

‘An exceptionally promising debut’ Seura

‘Hiekkapelto knows how to get under your skin 45 min, MTV

Hiekkapelto’s brooding debut, a large-scale police procedural set in a small Finnish town, tilts heroically at such vexing ills as racial prejudice, alcoholism, and domestic abuse … tough and powerful crime fiction’ Publishers Weekly

‘Kati Hiekkapelto delivers a knockout punch in the fight to be top dog in the Scandi Crime wave with her debut crime thriller The Hummingbird. It has everything you need three interwoven stories, the dark noir, the defective detective, the racist detective all in the north of Finland as summer turns to the darkness of winter. This thriller will really get under your skin as the imagery is striking and at times stark and haunting like some of the landscapes can be as the changes from summer take place towards the arctic circle’ Atticus Finch

‘A few other Finnish authors have surfaced in English since Antti Tuomainen appeared in 2013, but Kati Hiekkapelto is one that truly stands out’ Crime Fiction Lover

‘Crisp and refreshing, with a rawness that comes from a writer willing to take risks with her work’ Sarah Ward, CrimePieces

‘There are plenty of twists in the investigations to keep the reader guessing’ Book Oxygen

Interview with Kati Hiekkapelto, courtesy of Shots magazine.

‘The twin investigations provide The Hummingbird with its narrative spine, but much of the story, which is translated by David Hackston, is engaged in exploring what it means to be Finnish, a place where “people were expected to unflaggingly present a play directed by market forces, a performance called Western civilisation”‘ Crime Always Pays

A stunning opening, tightly plotted procedurals, intelligent writing, sharp social commentary, complex characters and a surprise ending, what more could you want? These are main character you’ll instantly feel you know and yet, as their flaws and motivations are revealed, you’ll see how well-crafted, or human, they really are; products of their past, of the system in which they live, and yet redemption is dangled before them. Crime Thriller Hound

‘The Defenceless has all the ingredients of a good, socially motivated, crime novel: two complex detectives; a diverse cast of characters including three elderly people, an asylum seeker, gang members and their relatives, and a number of seemingly disparate strands that are nicely weaved together by Hiekkapelto. Overall though, I found The Defenceless an interesting and engaging take on a changing society.’ The Writes of Women

‘The plot is engaging and there is an interesting twist in its tail, though the ending seemed to fizzle out somewhat, with weak resolutions to a couple of strands.  Nonetheless, a nicely told socially realist police procedural.’ The View from the Blue House