Inspector Kari Vaara has moved from the far north of Finland to Helsinki. His American born wife Kate is expecting their child any day. Their first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage and Vaara is terrified that the same will happen again. He is trying to stay close to home and keep reasonable hours, but he is the new guy on the Homicide squad and he hasn't exactly been welcomed with open arms. He's on the graveyard shift with the other new guy- a wunderkid who seems a bit...off, somehow. But then again, so does Vaara.
He and his new partner Milo are called out to what appears to be a domestic murder. A husband wakes up and realizes he's been sleeping with a corpse - his dead wife. He pleads innocence, that it's her lover they should be after, but the powers that be seem to have the case already solved - with the verdict they want.
At the same time, the Interior Minister wants Vaara to investigate a 90 year old man for war crimes. He wants an innocent verdict, but Germany wants the man extradited as a Nazi war criminal. It gets more complicated when Vaara realizes he has a family connection to the old man's story.
Vaara is battling crippling headaches, insomnia and corrupt leaders on every level. And his wife's brother and sister have just arrived from the US to help with the baby. They're not much help.
Inspector Kari Vaara is just a great flawed character. He's highly intelligent, but sometimes acts without thinking. He constantly defies his superiors, but he gets results. His personal demons drive him, but he is a dedicated husband and soon to be father. Supporting characters are just as well drawn. Milo kept me off balance and I really disliked Kate's family.
The plot has enough twists and turns to keep you guessing until the end. Nothing is straight forward and the two cases intersect in a way I didn't see coming. A word of warning to readers - the crimes are graphic in nature.
The setting is yet another character. The history and politics of Finland play a large part in this book. I also found the culture and food references interesting. The cold and the weather are tangible as well.
"My home, Finland. The ninth and innermost circle of hell. A frozen lake of blood and guilt formed from Lucifer's tears, turned to ice by the flapping of his leathery wings."James Thompson's story is interesting as well. He was born and raised in eastern Kentucky, but has lived in Finland for 12 years now. He is also fluent in both Swedish and Finnish.
Fans of Michael Connelly would love Kari Vaara. And yes - if you've finished all the Steig Larssons, you'd enjoy this series as well.