An Inspector Kari Vaara Mystery by James Thompson
Review: Inspector Kari Vaara's life has been shattered, both physically and emotionally. He's on medical leave, recovering — with the help of a lot of alcohol and drugs — from gunshot wounds to his already damaged face and knee when his estranged wife leaves their infant daughter with him and takes off for Florida to be with her addict brother. And now, a stranger has shown up on his doorstep asking for his help in finding her missing daughter Loviise in Helsinki Blood, the fourth crime novel in this series by James Thompson.
Though in constant pain, Vaara agrees, and enlists the help of his buddies and their girlfriends to assist. One he sends to Florida to bring back his wife, Kate. Another accompanies him on his quest to find the missing young woman. It doesn't take them long to learn that she has most likely been abducted by Russian diplomats to be sold into prostitution. But just as soon as they find her — in the hotel room of a man with a knife in his back — they lose her again when three of the dead man's associates come to take care of the situation, as it were. Escaping, Vaara vows to do whatever is necessary to get Loviise back no matter what the cost.
Helsinki Blood is a prime example of how quickly a once promising series can degenerate into irrelevancy. Not to put too fine a point on it, but there is absolutely nothing about this novel that is worth recommending.
The first quarter of the book is written as a continuation of the previous book in the series, Helsinki White (not reviewed here). Vaara relates, speaking in the past tense, what has happened since he and his associates stole ten million euros. Then, Vaara switches to present tense to relate what happens as he tries to find Loviise. Vaara himself is a repugnant character but he is actually the good guy here; everyone else, as hard as it is to imagine, is worse. (Vaara may have some semblence of an excuse; the prior removal of his brain tumor left him nearly emotionless. That doesn't explain the abhorrent behavior of everyone else around him.) The storyline is pedestrian at best, full of coincidental plot conveniences, and is merely an excuse for Vaara and company to cause death and destruction at every turn.
What is so remarkable is how fast and far this series has fallen. (Compare, for example, the "superb mystery" that is Lucifer's Tears, the second book in this series.) There is a hint, just the barest glimmer of hope, that if there's a next book in this series, it may return to its previous form. The present book ends on a positive, even rather sweet, note, an epilogue completely incongruous with everything that preceded it.
Acknowledgment: Penguin Group provided a copy of Helsinki Blood for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Putnam (Hardcover), March 2011
ISBN-13: 9780399157004; ISBN-10: 039915700X
Location(s) referenced in Helsinki Blood: Helsinki, Finland
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Helsinki Blood by James Thompson — An Inspector Kari Vaara Mystery
Publication Date: March 2013
List Price: $26.95