We haven’t seen the volume of Finnish crime novels translated into English as I’d have expected given the rise in popularity of Nordic noir. I’m not sure why this is the case. Most of the books from Finland that I’ve read recently have been excellent but it may well be that we’re getting the cream of crime fiction from the country. The Hummingbird by Kati Hiekkapelto is a strong addition to the genre. There’s a rawness to the writing that comes from an author willing to take risks with their work.
Anna Fekke arrived as a child in Finland as a refugee from the Yugoslavian wars. She is now beginning a career as a criminal investigator in a northern Finnish town but is assigned to a team that seems oblivious to casual incidences of racism. Her first week is marked by the murder of a woman jogger and Anna’s inexperience as an investigator is exacerbated by her paring with a racist partner. Another murder, soon after the first, suggests the possibility of a serial killer which stretches the resources of the small team.
The Hummingbird is almost two separate narratives that intertwine to provide a substantial read. Firstly we have the murder and its investigation. There’s a serial killer thread which includes the placing of a ‘trophy’ on the victims. However, there’s a nice to twist to this storyline and I thought it well done. The book’s real strength, though, is the character of Anna Fekke and the focus on her coming to terms with her refugee past. You see Anna’s conflicted views towards both her own community which she tries to untangle herself from and also her new ‘home’ in the police which isn’t as expected. She’s a flawed character which adds to the depth of her portrayal.
Hopefully we’ll have further books from Hiekkapelto as the writing is crisp and refreshing. As a small addendum, I think the book cover is one of the nicest I’ve seen in a long time. I rarely pay any attention to them, but I thought this one beautiful.