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by James Thompson
Putnam, March 2013
320 pages
ISBN: 039915888X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

If you wondered what happened next to Inspector Kari Vaara and his family after the events that end HELSINKI WHITE, wonder no further. People are still after him and the fact that his wife Kate had to save him last time around by picking up a gun and killing his assailant has left her with extreme PTSD. Vaari’s personal health issues, his family, his associates, and his unique professional problems are not tangential to other investigations in James Thompson’s latest thriller HELSINKI BLOOD. Rather, they are what the book is about.

Vaara is at an impossibly low point in his life as the book opens. Traumatized Kate has taken baby daughter Anu and abandoned him. He is immobile and in constant pain from the bullet injuries to his face and leg, both of which opened up old wounds in those same areas. Then things get worse. Kate, in a seeming dissociative state, leaves the child with Vaara and disappears. His apartment is attacked, his car is bombed, and a friend dies. One of the people he has tangled with in the past has placed him and his family on a death list.

Well, things can only go up from here. And up they do go, but not quickly, and not without much bloodshed. The familiar lack of affect is present in this current tale. Not only does Vaara suffer from a state of emotionlessness, stemming from a brain operation he endured, but no one around him seems much moved by the violence, death and ugly crimes they witness or perpetrate. Thompson’s portrayal of flat emotions is a hallmark of his writing, if not his interpretation of the Finnish character. Hard to say what motivates him to write this way, but once the reader accepts this as part of his style, the book becomes more manageable and even intriguing.

A plan is hatched to rid Vaara once and for all of the people who are plotting against him. It is complicated and seems to have little chance of success. Besides dealing with these people in power who are out to annihilate him, Vaara and his ever-willing henchmen Sweetness and Milo are tasked with finding a girl with Down Syndrome who has been kidnapped by Russians for a prostitution ring. Vaara finds her then loses her then—well, let’s not give everything away here.

It may be possible to think of this book as a transitional piece between Vaara’s seemingly hopeless personal and professional situation and a more solid basis for his continued viability. As the book ends, we become aware of this potential and look forward to seeing it played out in Thompson’s next Inspector Kari Vaara installment.

Anne Corey is a writer, poet, teacher and botanical artist in New York's Hudson Valley.

Reviewed by Anne Corey, March 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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