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Helsinki White (Inspector Vaara Series #3)

Helsinki White (Inspector Vaara Series #3)

4.2 6
by James Thompson

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Inspector Kari Vaara, recovering from brain surgery, is back to doing police work—under circumstances most cops only dream of. Reporting directly to the national chief of police, Kari and his partners Milo and Sulo have been granted secrecy and autonomy for their new black-ops unit, and plenty of cash to work with, including whatever they can steal from Helsinki


Inspector Kari Vaara, recovering from brain surgery, is back to doing police work—under circumstances most cops only dream of. Reporting directly to the national chief of police, Kari and his partners Milo and Sulo have been granted secrecy and autonomy for their new black-ops unit, and plenty of cash to work with, including whatever they can steal from Helsinki’s mobsters.

But Kari's team is too good, and their actions have unintended consequences...The president of Finland wants the team on a new case: the vicious assassination of a prominent immigrants' rights activist. Against a backdrop of simmering hatred spreading across the country, Kari must solve a case that involves the kidnapping of a billionaire’s children, a Faustian bargain with a former French Legionnaire—and his own wife.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The narrative is exquisitely quick…hard to put down.”—Houston Chronicle

“Thompson's style is on the dark end of the ‘Nordic Noir’ spectrum. The genre — with its stark and often violent police procedurals — has proved wildly successful…The marquee names have come from Sweden — think Stieg Larsson's Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, or Henning Mankell's Wallander series — but Norway's Jo Nesbo and Iceland's Arnaldur Indridason and Yrsa Sigurdardottir have also made their mark with international readers. Thompson stands out from that crowd by writing in English and telling Vaara's gritty narrative in the first person. ”--The New York Times

“In his dozen years of living in Finland…Thompson has absorbed enough cold, dark atmosphere for a spot on the roster of top Nordic crime writers—Mankell, Nesbø, Indrioason and the like.”—The New York Post

“A must-read for fans of Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell.”—Booklist

“The laconic voice of Inspector Kari Vaara is at the same time dangerous and human, his world cold, barren, yet intriguingly exotic.”—Peter Høeg, New York Times bestselling author of Smilla’s Sense of Snow

Publishers Weekly
Racial hatred drives Thompson’s explosive third thriller featuring Insp. Kari Vaara (after 2011’s Lucifer’s Tears). When Finland’s national chief of police asks Kari to head a covert team to fight organized crime by hijacking buys and planting drugs and guns on rival dealers, all allegedly to help clean up Helsinki, Kari realizes that he’d be complicit in corruption, as the money collected would not only fund the operation but also funnel back up the chain of command. Kari’s American wife, Kate, understands the implicit risks, but doesn’t immediately object. Flawed team members include his eager-beaver partner, Milo Nieminien, and the imposing but naïve Sulo “Sweetness” Polvinen. The murder of the minister of immigration, Lisbet Söderlund, whose head is sent by mail to the Finnish Somalia Network with a note denouncing her pro-immigration stance, raises the ante. A race war threatens, with the right-wing Real Finns Party fanning the flames. Thompson deftly explores moral gray areas in this all too topical novel. Agent: Nat Sobel, Sobel Weber Associates. (Mar.)
Library Journal
After the decapitated head of Finland's top minority-rights crusader arrives at the offices of an immigrant political group, the country erupts in racial violence. Inspector Kari Vaara is tapped to lead the investigation, despite being compromised on several counts—he's a new father, a recent surgery to remove a benign brain tumor has left him incapable of feeling emotion, and he's up to his neck in corruption, leading a rogue black-ops group that steals drugs, guns, and money from criminals. With the help of a Finnish-born former French Legionnaire-turned-spy (!), Vaara and his team connect the dots between the murder and an unsolved kidnapping, a discovery that imperils the cop and his family. VERDICT In his third Vaara thriller (after Lucifer's Tears), Thompson adeptly conveys the ugliness of the racial intolerance currently permeating Western Europe. Less successful is the cartoony covert-ops angle (think Stieg Larsson meets The A-Team) and the choice to strip Vaara of his conscience. Crime fiction readers with a taste for Nordic ultraviolence will be satisfied, but those yearning for less gore and more depth will be left cold.—Annabelle Mortensen, Skokie P.L., IL
Kirkus Reviews
Finland's top cop gets to run his very own black-ops unit—and rue the day he ever took what looked like a dream job. Desperate to hide the ultra-compromising video Inspector Kari Vaara has of him, Jyri Ivalo, Finland's national chief of police, offers him a free hand assembling a dream team, financed by whatever it can steal from the bad guys, to go after international traffickers in human flesh. Determined "to help people" now that he's a new father, Kari (Lucifer's Tears, 2011, etc.) brings in his loose-cannon partner Milo Nieminien and his protégé Sulo (Sweetness) Polvinen and hits the bricks. Their first few forays, informed by intel from Ivalo, net them some fast cash, some sweet bonuses and the opportunity to mingle with some highly placed politicians and financiers. Despite the sweet smell of success, however, Kari and his mates, dirty cops in all but name, are already getting sucked into a cesspool of corruption. Ironically, the tipping point comes with the order to close a pair of high-profile cases that even the cleanest cops would be proud to investigate: the recent beheading of pro-immigration activist Lisbet Söderlund and the year-old kidnapping of Antti and Kaarina Saukko, son and daughter of megalomaniac industrialist Veikko Saukko, and Kaarina's murder three days after she was ransomed and returned unharmed. Joining forces with highly questionable French police officer Adrien Moreau to turn over the appropriate rocks, Kari finds himself swiftly borne into the heart of anti-immigration darkness and unable to recognize or accept the person he's turning into. Enough violent felonies for a Sunday newspaper—and, as a depressingly informative epilogue intimates, that's exactly where they've come from.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Inspector Vaara Series , #3
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 7.97(h) x 0.91(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
“Superbly written and full of insights about Thompson’s adopted country . . . [Helsinki White is] a first-class crime novel." —Leighton Gage, author of A Vine in the Blood

Meet the Author

James Thompson, eastern Kentucky-born and –raised, has lived in Finland for more than a dozen years; he now resides in Helsinki with his wife. His debut novel, Snow Angels, was selected as a Booklist Best Crime Novel Debut of the Year and was nominated for Edgar®, Anthony, and Strand Magazine critics awards. Before becoming a full-time writer, Thompson studied Finnish—in which he is fluent—and Swedish, and worked as a bartender, bouncer, construction worker and soldier. He is also the author of Lucifer's Tears, also in the Inspector Vaara series.

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Helsinki White 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
whatsnew More than 1 year ago
An enjoyable read and one of a excellant series
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There is a chracter shift (textally explanatory)which is qute a bit jarring in comparison with th previous novels but it was necessary and crafted well. Kari just took readers to a bit darker place in this book. It was a very good thought provoking read which will make readers think and be forced to look at things people pretend not to. Thompson in truth was quite brave and ballsy in writing this book and i commend his courage. Yes it is fiction however the truths in it are the things people cannot ignore as their realities are beyond terrible. Cannot wait for the next book.
Anonymous 11 months ago
But I liked it and finished it
BookLoverCT More than 1 year ago
I have read each of the Inspector Vaara series. Just read the fourth book, Helsinki Blood. I am learning much about the problems that have surrounded this country that exists partly north of the Arctic Circle. I was happy with the 4th book's ending, after being upset after book # 3.
gloriafeit More than 1 year ago
Inspector Kari Vaara, the protagonist in this series, in which this is the third entry, has a reputation as a “hero cop,” having been shot twice in the line of duty and decorated for bravery both times. Possessed of “annoying incorruptibility,” he has just been offered, and accepted, a job running a black-ops unit in his native Helsinki, using crime to fight crime with hand-selected (and admittedly sociopathic) cohorts who have “secrecy, autonomy, and the resources to buy anything they need for the job.” As the tale opens, Kari is recovering from brain surgery to remove a tumor, the unsettling after-effects of which are psychological/emotional rather than physical. His motives were primarily altruistic: “I took this job and started this illegal operation after being promised that it was for the purpose of helping people” specifically “young women being forced into the slave trade and prostitution.” He has, however, been misled: things take unexpected turns, and he soon discovers that “corruption has no limits among the powerful, even when it involves murder.” The plot is a complex one, involving as it does national problems, not entirely, or even partially, fictional, primarily the racism and anti-immigration feelings rampant in modern society in Nordic and other European Union countries, and in other parts of the world as well, with rising fears about “the contagion of non-white immigration.” The author makes these social issues palpable. Though not the page-turner I initially expected, this is an absorbing book, well-written, and one in which, be forewarned, the closing pages are not for the faint of heart. I enjoyed this book so much that next up for this reader is “Helsinki Blood,” published one month following this entry in the series. Recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago