This is the second book in the Helsinki Homicide series by Finnish author Jarkko Sipila that has been translated into English. The previous book, Against the Wall, was the winner of the 2009 Best Finnish Crime Novel award. In Vengeance, the dark story from the violent underbelly of Helsinki continues more or less where it ended in Against the Wall.
Suhonen, the undercover detective who runs surveillance of the criminals and the crime gangs in Helsinki, by chance witnesses a meeting between one of the high ranking criminal operators and an unknown man. The meeting seems important, and Suhonen decides to track down the other man. He turns out to be a Russian gangster operating out of Lithuania, a man high up in a Russian gang there. Something is about to happen, but nobody seems to know exactly what.
At the same time, Tapani Larsson, the vice president of the violent and criminal motorcycle gang The Skulls walks out of prison after having finished his sentence. It was Suhonen, working undercover, who had placed him there. Now the president of the gang is behind bars as well, serving a life time sentence, and Larsson is the boss, controlling all the resources of the gang. He has big plans for expansion, and wants to rebuild the gang and restore it to its former glory after all their recent losses in their ongoing war with the police. But foremost in his mind is revenge. Vengeance. He is determined to take down Suhonen.
Suhonen and his colleagues in the unit led by Lieutenant Takamäki in the Helsinki Police do all they can to stem the tide of crime, but they are seriously understaffed. And when the situation provides them with an unexpected opportunity to insert an undercover agent into the headquarter of the Skulls – a snitch, a friend of Suhonen who is in a very difficult tangle and can be used – they grab it. However, bad luck strikes them a severe blow when the undercover agent is seen meeting with Suhonen by someone who knows the value of such information. The undercover agent’s cover is blown, and the Skulls use that valuable piece of information to set a deadly trap.
Vengeance is a truly chilling and extremely dark crime fiction book – a real Helsinki noir. We meet drug addicts, snitches, ex-cons, gang members, gang bosses, drug couriers, and all sorts of people from the thriving, throbbing and ever expanding world of crime in Helsinki. We also meet the tired, disillusioned and overworked cops, whose resources are stretched far too thin.
I liked this book a lot. Vengeance is suspenseful, exciting, fast paced, and written in a crisp style, full of cynicism and dark humor. It simply doesn’t get any better than this. An excellent book, strongly recommended.
“A thrilling, captivating story.” – Helsingin Sanomat
“Guaranteed reading enjoyment.” – Pohjolan Sanomat
“Truly top-notch work.” – Kansan Uutiset