Setting: Helsinki, Finland. (Note: this is not Scandinavian crime fiction, it’s Nordic.)
Story: Inspector Kari Vaara and Detective Sergeant Milo Nieminen are the outsiders in the Helsinki murder squad, a crew that has a 100% success rate in solving murders. Vaara and Nieminen’s first call is routine – though gruesome. But next time out, they are involved in a case of the torture and murder of the wife of a local Russian businessman. It’s anything but routine, and equally gruesome.
As the pair investigate the crime, they encounter unwelcome difficulties and complexities, and Vaara gets more tricky stuff to add to his workload. If that wasn’t bad enough, Vaara is damaged goods, Nieminen is a potential ticking bomb, Vaara’s American wife is about to give birth, and her family are in town.
The Good Stuff: Sex and drugs and rock and roll. And violence. There is plenty going on in this book, and Thompson handles the multiple threads with apparent ease. The plot is brilliantly constructed, and the mystery and suspense is well maintained.
More Good Stuff: The Helsinki background and Finnish history kicking around the fringes of the case are interesting. The central character is well drawn. The culture clash between Finland and the USA, as between Vaara and his in-laws, is an effective method of highlighting some of the unique features of Finnish life. (For one thing, these guys make the Scots look like potential teetotallers.)
Not So Good Stuff: There are occasional lapses that break the ‘show not tell’ guideline for authors. And the writing is completely unpretentious. Some may find that an attraction, but I would have preferred Thompson to let his creative juices go off on the odd flight of fancy. However, none of this stuff materially spoiled the book.
Score: 7/10. (And my Kindle should have the preceding Inspector Vaara tale by the time this review is posted. That should count for something!)
Extra: I was sufficiently intrigued by this author writing a Finnish based tale, that I did some quick research and found his website. Worth checking out.