Thompson's stellar second thriller featuring Insp. Kari Vaara (after Snow Angels) finds Vaara working as a homicide detective in Helsinki, where he investigates the torture murder of Iisa Filippov. While Vaara suspects the victim's Russian husband, Ivan, he can't touch Ivan because the Russian is well connected within the police department. Vaara also looks into international accusations of war crimes against a Finnish national hero, 90-year-old Arvid Lahtinen, who allegedly executed Jews and other POWs at a secret Finnish stalag during WWII. But he soon learns that not only did his own grandfather serve in the same unit but the stalag is just one of the wartime secrets Lahtinen is hiding that are potentially embarrassing to the Finnish government. The arrival of Vaara's pregnant wife's brother and sister from the States doesn't make his home life easy. Thompson elegantly threads Finland's compelling national history with Vaara's own demons in this taut, emotionally wrought novel. (Mar.)
In Thompson's second crime novel featuring Inspector Kari Vaara (Snow Angels), the brooding Finnish homicide detective has moved from small-town Lapland to urban Helsinki for a fresh start. Instead, Kari juggles a multitude of woes. He's racked by migraines and petrified that the pregnancy of his American wife, Kate, will end badly. Meanwhile, Kate's alcoholic brother and self-righteous sister are visiting. The interior minister wants him to investigate a 90-year-old security police veteran accused of committing war crimes—atrocities that also implicate Kari's beloved grandfather. To top it off, a case involving the grisly S&M-tinged murder of a Russian businessman's wife has stalled. The husband is guilty, but Kari can't prove it—until an unlikely ally intervenes. VERDICT Thompson, an American expat living in Finland, tends to let his affinity for multiple story lines get the better of him. Fortunately, his intriguing insights into Nordic cultures help compensate, as does the book's hard-boiled sensibility. Give this to readers of gritty procedurals both international and domestic [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/10.]—Annabelle Mortensen, Skokie P.L., IL
Inspector Kari Vaara's success in cracking the Sufia Elmi murder (Snow Angels, 2010) wins him a transfer from the sticks to Helsinki, below the Arctic Circle but just as hospitable to cold-blooded murder.
Two cases compete with his wife's pregnancy, already complicated by pre-eclampsia and an extended visit from her boorish American brother and sister, for Kari's attention. The more florid case is the murder of Iisa Filippov, who was stripped, bound, beaten with a riding crop and burned with cigarettes before she died. Everything about the ritual killing points to her ice-water husband Ivan, who owns an asbestos-removal business, and his secretary Linda Pohjoda, who bears an uncanny resemblance to both the murder victim and the 1950s bondage pinup girl Bettie Page. But Kari is repeatedly stonewalled by Ivan and hamstrung by his boss, national police chief Jyri Ivalo. More intriguingly, Jyri seems just as interested in the more obscure case, an allegation that Finnish war hero Arvid Lahtinen, at 90 the sole survivor of Stalag 309, was actually complicit with the Nazis in running the camp and executing its inmates. Recognizing that Arvid may have been in cahoots with government higher-ups and Kari's own grandfather, Kari keeps returning to him for one more round of questions till his two leading cases (there are others as well) collide with a satisfying snap.
Nazi collaboration, government cover-ups, kinky sex, a baby daughter waiting impatiently to be born and a vigilante-minded hero who talks back to his boss more irreverently than Dirty Harry. What more could you want?
…a fast-moving, readable slice of Nordic noir…Despite his multiplicity of plotlines, Thompson's narrative skill keeps things moving at a lively pace…the haunted, trouble-prone Vaara is an intriguing character, one who recalls Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch and Ian Rankin's John Rebus.
The Washington Post
“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
“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
Praise for the Inspector Vaara Novels
“The tone evokes Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, but the plot takes off fast, the themes are universal and James Thompson tells a nighttime tale as only a bartender can.”—Michael Simon, author of The Last Jew Standing
“The stark Nordic setting will appeal to fans of Scandinavian crime fiction…Will remind readers of Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park.”—Library Journal
“Thompson’s portrait of Lapland in the depths of winter is starkly and realistically drawn…An outstanding series debut.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Intriguing glimpses of Finnish culture…Tangled small-town relationships and lust also fuel this noir-ish thriller.”—Publishers Weekly
“Stellar…Thompson elegantly threads Finland’s compelling national history with Vaara’s own demons in this taut, emotionally wrought novel.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Like the books of the late Stieg Larsson, Thompson’s reflect the gray cold of Nordic winters…But Thompson’s books move more quickly (and violently) than Larsson’s.”
—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
“Impossible to put down…Essential reading for all fans of...Stieg Larsson.”—Booklist (starred review)
“A must-read for fans of Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell.”—Booklist