The Hummingbird by Kati Hiekkapelto – Review

Published by Arcadia Books

Publication date – 15 September 2014

Source – review copy

Translated by David Hackston


“Anna Fekete, who fled the Yugoslavian wars as a child, has a past. Just beginning her career as a criminal investigator in a northern Finnish coastal town, she is thrust into a high-profile, seemingly unsolvable case that has riveted the nation. It doesn’t help that her middle-aged new partner, Esko, doesn’t bother hiding his racist prejudices, and Anna becomes the target of a systematic campaign to unsettle her.

A young woman has been killed on a running trail, and a pendant depicting an Aztec god has been found in her possession. Another murder soon follows. All signs point to a serial killer, but can Anna catch the Hummingbird before he – or she – strikes again? And at what personal cost?

Dark, gritty and filled with contemporary themes, this is a chilling, unforgettable book that you will find impossible to put down. Or forget.”

3.5 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publishers and this is my honest opinion of the book.

A young woman goes out for an evening run. She doesn’t return. Her body is found the next morning. She has been brutally shot. Anna Fekete’s first day on the job as a police detective finds her head first in the investigation. Soon possible leads run dry. But then another body is found and it becomes apparent that Anna’s on a race against time to stop the killer before he or she strikes again.

This is the first in the Anna Fekete series from Kati Hiekkapelto and being someone who likes her crime series I was keen to read this one.

Anna is a complex character. She moved to the country in her youth, escaping the war in the former Yugoslavia she had settled in Finland. Keen to do well she is met with the ultimate obstacle in the form of Esko, her new partner. He is a mysognist, openly racist character who makes her life hell. Others seem to pander to him, or at least excuse his actions. Having learned in the past it is not always best to confront prejudice, Anna internalises the upset Esko causes. I wasn’t always sure I liked Anna. There were times that she came across as a caring, friendly person, eager to repay the country that had taken her in and to help others who needed it. Other times she was rash or acted in a way that I wanted to shout at her and urge her to stick up for herself. However I did feel that Anna’s personality was not fully shown to the reader. There was the impression that the author was holding something back. This makes sense in some ways as it appeals to the reader, encouraging them to want to read more stories featuring Anna Fekete. It was also though slightly frustrating as I felt I couldn’t get a proper handle on her character.

As for Esko I positively hated the man. He racist rants and childish actions offended me and it was these that made me wish Anna would just stand up to him. Again I think the author was holding something back from the reader as to his background as others seemed to excuse his actions as if something in his past warranted them.

There are a whole host of other side characters that add to the story. Virkkunen, Anna’s boss, seems to be slightly kowtowed by Esko, but hovers around in the background as most good fictional bosses do, popping up now and then to cause a headache for the lead character. I liked the interaction between Anna and the coroner and her colleague Sari.

The mystery is engaging. The reader is kept guessing and it wasn’t until shortly before the reveal that I figured out the killer’s identity.

One thing I have noticed as I read more translated fiction is the fact that, for me, the key to a great translation is the fact that I can’t tell it is translated. That’s to say I don’t think twice that the words I am reading are the ones the author intended to be read. For the most part that’s what happened with this book. But every now and then I came across a word or turn of phrase that seemed to jar, it was almost as if the translator had picked the words specifically for a British target audience and I had a little difficulty in thinking that such phrases were in common Finnish usage. They would appear every now and then to remind me I was reading a translated piece of fiction and stay a little while until I was drawn into the story again.

I loved the setting of the novel. Finland is a place I know little about but on reading this it is added to the list of places I want to visit. The insights into Finnish lifestyle was interesting, their attitude to drink for example, or how the shifts in weather and season affect the residents.

Overall I enjoyed the first outing of Anna and Esko. Luckily I have the next book in the series, The Defenceless, waiting on my reading pile so I will turn to that one soon.

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of The Hummingbird.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. MarinaSofia says:

    Catching up slowly with all the reviews and blog posts while I was away on holiday. I think you will like The Defenceless even more than The Hummingbird, as the author seems to have found her feet in the second volume, while this one still shows a few rookie flaws.


    1. janetemson says:

      It’s one of my next reads. I was tempted to pick it up and read it straight away so I am interested to see what it’s like.


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