Authors: Kati Hiekkapelto
Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Women Sleuths, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Crime, #Murder, #Literary Fiction, #Crime Fiction, #Private Investigators
‘If you’re a fan of Swedish crime queen Camilla Läckberg, you’ll love Hiekkapelto’
‘An exceptionally promising debut’
‘Hiekkapelto knows how to get into people’s skin’ MTV3
‘Extremely promising Northern noir’
‘Here is an author who, with her first detective novel, trounces the Swedes. Läckberg & Co. feel clunky once you’ve had a chance to devour the realistic, engrossing and vitally topical story about Yugoslav Hungarian Anna Fekete, a criminal investigator from a northern Finnish coastal town’
is a confident, thrilling crime novel, which credibly depicts the everyday life of the Finnish police’
‘When you’re reading
it’s hard to believe that the book you’re holding in your hands is a debut. Absolutely everything comes together: the police work is described realistically, as are the problems faced by immigrants; the plot is skilfully constructed; the characters are lifelike and engaging’ Literary Blog, Kirsin Kirjanurkka
Translated from the Finnish by
That night the Sandman arrived like a Gestapo henchman. When he went on his rounds, hush now, hush, he stuffed the blue clothes in the laundry and pulled on a long leather jacket and a pair of shiny boots, threw me in the car and took me away. His belt had a buckle that he could open quickly. Three guesses why. And I didn’t dare fall asleep, though the drive seemed to take forever.
I’ve seen mutilated bodies as a kid, women stoned to death, honest, and I suppose I should be traumatised, but I’m not. But I know what my own body looks like dead and I’ve heard about girls that have fallen from balconies, the Angels of Rinkeby and Clichy-sous-Bois, angels that didn’t know how to fly. And I know another girl that just vanished,
Everyone knew she’d been sent back home to be married off to some pervert with a pot belly, a golden tooth and fingers like sausages. In that way the family’s honour was restored, phew, the whole fucking family could sigh with relief and smile those everything’s-just-fine smiles for the rest of their lives. All except for the girl, that is. And the pervert bagged himself a nice little plaything, something to stick his dirty fingers into.
The Sandman drove me to my aunt and uncle’s place in another city, in another suburb, dumped me on the living-room sofa, and I lay there, numb, listening to every sound, wondering when they were going to come in and kill me. I heard my aunt turning on the tap in the kitchen, whispering into the phone, chatting with my uncle, rustling something. I don’t know how they were related to me, at least not in Finnish terms. As far as I know Mum’s cousins still live in Sweden and my dad’s only brother died ages ago. These were an aunt and uncle in our terms: age-old friends of my parents, some distant relation to Dad. They never slept and they probably never ate anything either, but they left me bits of bread on the living-room table. It’s like they were constantly at the ready. What were they waiting for? Waiting for someone to say, shove her off the balcony, go on, whoops, it was all a tragic accident. Or was it: your plane’s leaving in two hours; we’ve got you your ticket!
The sofa stank of Kurdistan. I don’t understand how they manage to carry the smell with them and preserve it in everything they own: sofas, rugs, curtains, clothes and textiles, kitchen cupboards, beds, sheets, wall-paper, the television, bars of soap, hair, skin. What do they store it in? A jar? And how does it survive for hundreds of years, across thousands of kilometres? Or is it really like they say in that old song, that Kurdistan is the air that we breathe?
This aunt and uncle watched every move I made; they wouldn’t even let me lock the bathroom door when I went for a pee. As if I could have disappeared down the drain or through the air vent. There was no way I could run away. I counted the steps to see how long it would take me to sneak into the hallway, rattle open the locks and dash into the stairwell screaming for help and make a run for freedom. But this aunt and uncle were keeping watch in the kitchen, which was situated along that route that felt like an eternity, the open kitchen door like a gaping mouth in the hallway, right next to the front door. They would have stopped me before I’d have been able to get out. And I knew they’d double-bolted the door and that my uncle had the key. They’d explained this to me loud and clear as they’d locked all the bolts and security chains and closed the living-room door, as though they were locking me into a cell. And in Finland I was supposed to be safe. But right now I was more frightened than I’d ever been as a little kid; although there were sometimes pools of blood in the street back home, at least it was a time when Mum and Dad still used to laugh.
I couldn’t just lie there and wait for the KGB Sandman to creep in the door and say NOW and let them start doing something really bad to me. I had to act. I pulled my mobile out of my handbag. That was the first miracle: they’d forgotten to confiscate it. That was a really stupid mistake. They must have been nervous too.
I dialled the number they’d taught us on the first day at school – safety first, yeah, that’s Finland for you. I remember as a kid I’d been petrified at the thought of actually having to call that number, if I had to report a fire or something or if Mum had a heart attack and I was unable to explain what was wrong, if they couldn’t understand what I was saying.
That number did nothing to increase my sense of safety; on the contrary, it loosened it, making it sway and crack and rattle. I had nightmares about all kinds of emergencies. I always thought I’d run to the neighbours’ house, the way we would have done back home, but even that didn’t feel right when after a few weeks I realised I didn’t know any of the people living next door. All I knew was that there was a woman on the ground floor who spat at us.
Now I know the right words. I know a whole new language and I can speak it better than my old one; I could call anyone, the National Forestry Commission, and they wouldn’t hear the faintest hint of Kurdistan in my voice. All they would hear would be the hum of the great northern pine forests.
And I know that here you can trust the police, at least in theory, unless you’re a Dublin Case, that is, or faulty goods that dictators at the Immigration Bureau decide must be sent back to where they came from. I’m not one of them. I’ve got citizenship. OMG, it makes me laugh to say it, but I’ve just got to: I’m a bona fide Finnish citizen, officially. It’s like winning the lottery, though I wasn’t born here. Okay, not quite seven right numbers. More like six plus the bonus. I had no other option but to believe in miracles. I called 112.
around the running track was silent. The shadows of the branches disappeared into the deepening dusk. A pair of light-coloured trainers struck the sawdust of the running path with dull, regular thumps. Her legs pounded the earth, their strong, pumped muscles working efficiently, her pulse beating at the optimum rate. She didn’t need a heart-rate monitor to feel it; she would never buy one. She knew her body well and knew what it required at any given time. After the first kilometre the initial stiffness began to recede, her legs felt lighter and her breathing steadied, and her running achieved that relaxed rhythm which could carry her to the ends of the earth.
It was easy to breathe in the damp, oxygenated air, fresh from the rain. Her lungs drew it in and pushed it out again like a set of bellows that today, at least, wouldn’t be tired. Sweat had covered the full length of her body. If I stopped now and stripped off, she thought, I’d glisten like the damp forest. Her toes felt warm. She had long since taken off her gloves and stuffed them in her pockets, though her hands had felt the chill when she’d set out. The sweatband round her head absorbed the droplets trickling down into her face, and her thick dark head of hair was soaked at the root. Her feet hit the ground in steady paces; the world shrank around their monotonous rhythm, and her thoughts seemed to empty themselves for a moment. There was just one step after another, step, step, step, nothing more in this malignant world.
She felt a twinge in her knee. Her breathing turned shallower,
faster; she was becoming tired after all. She slowed down a notch, just to have the strength to walk up to the front door. Not far now. She could make out the figure of the fallen tree that marked the start of the final straight. As it had fallen, its thick, foreboding trunk had taken a couple of slender birches with it. Now its roots jutted into the air like a troll. She’d often thought how easy it would be for someone to lurk behind them.
On another running track the stillness was broken only by the rhythmic hiss of a solitary jogger’s tracksuit. The forest was silent, not even the rush of the sea could be heard. Surely the birds haven’t left already. Perhaps they’ve already gone to sleep, the jogger thought just as a crow squawked right next to her ear. The noise took her by surprise, her heart jumped with fright, and immediately afterwards came the sound of rustling, as though the branches had been pulled away and flipped back into place. Someone was moving through the woods. No, not someone, something – a bird, a hedgehog, an insect. For crying out loud, what kind of insect would make a sound like that? A fox, perhaps, or a badger, forests are always full of different creatures; there’s no need to be frightened, she nervously repeated to herself, trying to calm herself but not really succeeding. She sped up and started running too fast. All the crises in her life were whirling in her head in a single cacophonous clamour, and she ran to try and empty them from her mind; all summer until this very evening she’d been running like one possessed. If only term would start again soon, she thought, I can get away from here, away from the past. This she had repeated to herself since the day the letter of acceptance to the university had arrived. Still, she felt as though she might never make it.
She was already on the second floor by the time the downstairs door clicked shut. This was her final spurt: up the stairs to the fifth floor at full speed, and though it felt as though her calf muscles were ablaze, she knew she’d make it. Tonight’s run was one of the gentler ones
in her weekly regime, less than an hour’s light jogging at a comfortable pace, unadulterated pleasure and enjoyment. She pulled off her sweaty clothes and threw them in a pile on the hallway floor, stepped into the shower, turned on the tap and let the warm water sprinkle down across her ruddy, pulsing skin, washing the beads of sweat and foaming soap down into the network of drains beneath the city, now the concern of the workers at the water purification plant. The idea amused her. As she stepped out of the shower, she wrapped herself in a thick white dressing gown, twisted her black hair into a towel, cracked open a can of beer and went out on to the balcony for a cigarette. Nothing but bleak concrete and floor upon floor of dark windows. Suburbia. What the hell had made her want to move back here? She laughed out loud at a suburb that, true to form, was trying to trick her. Now it was pretending to be asleep, but she knew it for what it was. She had seen everything that lay hidden behind those concrete walls. Thankfully after a good run it didn’t bother her, and strangely enough neither did the challenges of tomorrow. Endorphins were racing through her body, turning her nerves into an amusement park, and the feeling of exhilaration remained with her until she went to bed.
she whispered to herself and drifted to sleep.