Frightful Friday is a weekly meme in which I feature a particularly scary or chilling book that I’ve read that week.
This week’s featured title is Helsinki Blood by James Thompson:
- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Putnam Adult (March 21, 2013)
- ISBN-10: 039915888X
- Source: Publisher
In the fourth book in the Inspector Kari Vaara series, readers are greeted with a version of Kari that is darker and colder than any of the previous novels. Recovering from several shootings including one that destroyed his knee and jaw, leaving him in a tremendous amount of pain, Kari is still devoid of emotion after brain tumor surgery months earlier. Even tranquilizers and constant drinking only dull the horrific pain. Kari’s wife Kate has abandoned him, taking their infant daughter Anu with her. Kari is barely functional, yet when he is approached by Estonian woman, begging for help, he can’t turn her down. Her daughter, diagnosed with Down syndrome, has gone missing. The police are short-handed and could care less about the case. Kari sees it as an opportunity to help the victims who he failed to help during his black ops work. And, selfishly, he hopes that saving this young innocent girl will prove to his wife that he isn’t a monster.
Kari calls in his old crew, Sweetness and Milo, and they immediately begin an investigation into the girl’s abduction. Soon they find themselves delving into the world of elicit prostitution, discovering that those responsible for the young girl’s abduction are tied to the Russian mob. Kari’s past comes rushing back at him when this case becomes more of a vendetta than he could have imagined. Most paramount to him now, of course, is his family’s safety. The trio of to put an end to the past that haunts them using the sort of vigilante justice Kari and his crew are known for.
I’ve been a fan of this series from the beginning (see my reviews of Snow Angels, Lucifer’s Tears, Helsinki White) and it has been quite an interesting journey watching Kari’s character devolve into a cold, uncaring and incredibly flawed character. Yet, despite all this, one can’t help but feel sympathy for long-time fans can remember the warm, caring individual he once was. It isn’t until this novel that readers see the icy exterior begin to chip away, the individual we learned to respect and value, shining through. That isn’t to say that there isn’t a dark side of Kari that pervades. His family, his loved ones, have been threatened and despite the semblance of menacing monster, no one messes with those who are close to him without suffering the devastating consequences.
The majority of this novel is quite dark which seems to be a trademark of Thompson’s writing, the cold Finnish climate seeping into the souls of Kari and his crew. Admittedly, I did have a hard time reading a great deal of this novel, purely due to the level of violence. I’m not one to shy away from that sort of thing, either, yet for some reason it seemed overly pervasive in this novel. That said, my faith in Thompson’s writing prevailed and ultimately I was rewarded with a promise of hope and recovery in Kari’s character. While I wouldn’t say this is my favorite novel of the series, I am hopeful that Thompson has plans to return Kari’s character to what he was before.
Despite my issues with this novel, I do recommend it, along with the other books in the series. My strong feelings/response to this novel simply indicate how skilled Thompson is at involving his readers in his writing, eliciting a strong response in me that not many writers can. Recommended.