Helsinki White, by James Thompson

by Peter

Helsinki White, James ThompsonThe third novel in James Thompson’s series about the very Finnish Helsinki police Inspector Kari Vaara, Helsinki White, has arrived. It takes place in Helsinki soon after the conclusion of the previous novel, Lucifer’s Tears.

Life is rough for Inspector Vaara. He is a hero now – the media turned him into a big national hero after the events in the previous novel. Kari himself – ridden by the eternal guilt that plagues all Finns – isn’t so sure that he deserves that. He has not been able to protect those who mattered to him. However, that’s how it is. No point pondering it.

Especially not now: He has a tumor in his brain that he needs to have removed. Also, his boss Jyri sweet-talks him into accepting a special assignment; Kari is to be the boss of a new black ops unit directly under Jyri and the Ministry of Internal Affairs:

“You’re a failure to yourself. You’ve failed everyone you’ve touched. You’ll take this job to make up for it. I’m offering you everything you ever wanted.”

With the splitting headache caused by the tumor pumping in his head, Kari Vaara buys into Jyri’s wild scheme, and soon finds himself running a heist gang on behalf of crooked and corrupt police bosses and politicians. On his side are his two cronies, the scary psychotic genius Milo, who loves guns and shooting, and the baby-faced behemoth Sweetness, who commits violence without even thinking about it and without emotion. They become his personal henchmen. So instead of becoming the man he wants to be – a trustable man who promotes law and order and protects the weak – Inspector Vaara now turns into a violent master of black underground shakedowns.

When he finally is assigned a “real” case, it’s one that is very much in the eye of the public. An anti-racist public official has been beheaded, and so far only her head has been found. Vaara gets the case because the public needs to see that Finland’s best is working the case; that the authorities really do their utmost to solve the crime. It’s a hot potato: Race and ethnicity are for the first time becoming issues in the historically heterogeneous Finnish society. and racism is on the rise.

Also, it quickly becomes clear that his case is linked to an earlier, very high-profile case involving the kidnapping and murder of the children of a well known racist and billionaire…

The plot is rich and interesting, and Thompson’s writing is outstanding. I have to say that I felt this book to be a little less “Finnish” than the previous ones – Thompson’s plot with corrupt policemen and politicians feels more American that Finnish to me. Also, while Helsinki White is good and kept me reading, it is not quite as suspenseful as the previous two books. Even so, it is a crime fiction novel well worth reading, and I am looking forward to the fourth installment in the series.

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