The Exiled by Kati Hiekkapelto is the third in a series of mysteries dealing with police detective Anna Fekete who lives and works in Finland. In this book, she goes home to see her family in Serbia and encounters murder in Kanizsa, her home village. I won this novel in a Goodreads giveaway in 2016. It is the last of five Goodreads giveaway wins from last year. I have finally gotten it read while it's still Women in Translation (WIT) month. Kati Hiekkapelto originally wrote this book in Finnish. For more information about WIT month see an interview with the Israeli woman scientist who originated it here .
This is the first novel I've read in this series, but my perception is that Anna Fekete is not a noir detective. She believes in values that are considered old fashioned in the 21st century like integrity and justice. The violence in this novel also isn't on the level of the really dark Scandinavian noir that I've read. There are no stomach churning details. Although there is 21st century cynicism and corruption on the part of the local authorities in Serbia, I would call this noir lite, and I definitely prefer that. I hate finishing a book feeling totally disgusted as happens with most noir.
I was also glad to see a woman who wouldn't back down no matter how many people told her not to investigate the death of the man who stole her handbag. It seemed to me that she's a rare woman. Someone else wouldn't have cared about the death of a thief--especially when the thief had stolen from her. He was Romani and Anna thought he deserved justice. Anna relied on the assistance of her loyal friend, Reka, a local journalist who gave her information and contacts. Another woman that I really liked in this novel was Judit, a Romani community leader.
The parallel between Romani in Serbia and African Americans in the United States was very clear in The Exiled. Romani lives didn't matter. Whites in Serbia made the exact same sort of contemptuous comments about Romani as white racists tend to make about African Americans in the U.S. The people in Anna's village were Hungarians, an ethnic minority in Serbia. They didn't like it when the government of Serbia discriminated against them, but too many of them looked down on Romani and considered them worthless.
Anna reflected about the village where she was born, and wondered about what home meant. Could she really feel at home with people who didn't share her values? I identified with Anna's inner struggle over this issue.
The current massive refugee problem is part of the background of The Exiled . The same people who denigrate Romani were equally prejudiced against refugees. Anna went to the refugee camp with the village's Orthodox priest to see if she could help them.
The genuinely decent woman protagonist, and her fight against both bigotry and corruption gave The Exiled stature. It's a cut above the usual mystery. I look forward to reading the next in the series when it becomes available in English.