James Thompson's last book Helsinki White, left me wondering if I wanted to follow the Inspector Kari Vaara series any longer. (my review) I wasn't too sure if I liked the direction Thompson was taking Vaara. But, curiosity got the better of me, so I picked up the fourth book - Helsinki Blood.
Vaara is trying to recover from the gunshot wounds he sustained solving his last case. He's in unbelievable pain, and self medicating with drugs and alcohol. His mental state is still suffering due to from the brain tumour surgery that left him unable to feel emotions. His wife has left him, taking their infant daughter with her. And the people he stole from - they want revenge. His home and family are targets. Vaara has no choice but to fight back. And Vaara fights dirty. For Vaara is a dirty cop, albeit with good intentions. And of course, he calls on his black ops crew - the duo known as Sweetness and Milo, also both police employees.
"Milo, Sweetness and I are three such men. Brothers in arms. Brothers in blood. Each of us bound to the others by the knowledge that only we can count on ourselves not to kill one another. We did our jobs too well, observed no limits, not even legal boundaries, and served justice instead of our masters."
What follows is a dark, disturbing thriller that was difficult to put down. The prose are brutal, bloody and stark. The characters are cold and vicious. But there is still some of the old Vaara there, seeking justice for the those unable to protect themselves and protecting his own at all costs. The inclusion of a plotline about an abducted young Down's woman seemed to be added to the book to showcase this facet of Vaara. The level of corruption, unrest and racism is frightening - I'm not sure I would ever want to visit Finland. But, Kentucky native Thompson, has made Finland his home for over fifteen years. He includes much social commentary in his plots, touching on many current events.
Vaara is a hard character to define. He's a dangerous, ruthless man, but on the flipside does have a moral compass. We're just not too sure where its pointed right now. This latest book has hooked me again and I'll be waiting for the fifth installment in this series - Vaara's story is far from over. Thompson is Scandinavian noir at it's best. Read an excerpt of Helsinki Blood.
I would suggest starting from the beginning of the series to fully appreciate Vaara's story. However, Thompson does provide enough back story that you could read this as a stand alone.