Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Helsinki White - James Thompson


Helsinki White
An Inspector Vaara Novel
James Thompson
Berkley Prime Crime
 
Mystery/Thriller

After the events of SNOW ANGELS and LUCIFER’S TEARS, Inspector Kari Vaara is Finland’s most famous hero cop.  He’s pretty much untouchable.  That alone makes him perfect for the project the national chief of police has in mind for him.  In a nutshell, Vaara, along with his partners, the genius Milo and the burly Sulo, will become a black ops team.  They report only to the national chief, and their job will be undermining the bad guys wherever possible, by whatever means they like.  They can break and enter, rob, plant evidence, whatever it takes.  Of course, there will be money accrued by these activities.  And, of course, the national chief wants a cut.
 
It’s possible that Vaara might not have agreed in other circumstances.  As it is, his wife is expecting their first child very soon, and Vaara must undergo brain surgery to remove a tumor.  It might not seem like the best time to be acting like Robin Hood, but it gives Vaara a purpose.  And, as it turns out, they’re all quite good at it.  Taking drugs, money, and guns out of the hands of criminals is quite satisfying.  Getting to dispose of the spoils at will is even better.

While Vaara recovers from surgery, the news announces the murder of a woman who was a “champion of immigrants’ rights” in Finland.  Her death sets off a series of hate crimes between black and white.  Vaara, the national hero cop, is the logical choice to solve this murder and put an end to the racial violence.

Before reading this series, I had no idea that Finland’s population was recently increased by an influx of refugees from Somalia.  It seems to be a fairly well-kept secret outside the country, but inside Finland, there are hate groups that blame any social wrong on the black immigrants.  (See the author’s note at the end for more information.)  It’s an incendiary situation, just waiting for someone to light the fuse.
 
The story moves seamlessly from the black ops to the murder investigation, and then widens to encompass the kidnapping of two adult children from a very wealthy family.  All of these ingredients seem disparate, but they all come together in the end.  The narrative is almost sparse, and the pacing is swift and even.  Each character grows and sharpens, so that, in the end, no one is left unchanged.  There’s both beauty and brutality in this novel; as in life, often the brutal overshadows everything else.
 
Rating: 8 ½
February 2013
ISBN# 978-0-425-25344-1

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