Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

Brutal. That’s a good single word description of Helsinki White by James Thompson. Criminals were brutal to each other, brutal crimes were described in detail, and brutal acts were committed by almost everyone. The book as a whole is a brutal look at modern day racism in the ‘socialist paradise’ of Finland. It is all very interesting, though this book is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Our hero, Inspector Vaara, has changed. He has brain surgery to remove a tumor and knee surgery to remove his limp, the result of a shooting. He is also offered a different job in black ops, taking down criminals outside the law. He accepts believing he will be able to make a difference. He does make a difference, though not the one he thought. Doing evil in the name of good still begets evil. It’s a hard lesson to learn.

A prominent politician is murdered and it increases the heat on already simmering racial tensions. Vaara is called in by the prime minister himself to head the case because of his celebrity status. It turns out there is a rather tangled web of deceit and dirty dealings all around and if Vaara and his crew aren’t careful they’ll be the ones being hung out to dry, or worse.

Thompson has notes at the end describing the racial hatred that is rising in Finland. It is very reminiscent of the Nazi rhetoric, and is successful partly because of the similar economic situation. People are struggling financially and those who are different are the easy targets for blame.

I believe that Helsinki White is the third novel in the Inspector Vaara series. It appears that there are two novels already out about Vaara, although Helsinki White is states to be the second. I guess I’ll have to read the other one to figure out the correct order…

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Also by James Thompson: Snow Angels

Caleb is a software engineer and amature woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

A review copy was provided free of any obligation by Putnam. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.