Lucifer's Tears, by James Thompson, is the second to feature Inspector Kari Vaara.
The blurb on the back of the book states that James Thompson is "eastern Kentucky born and raised" and has lived in Finland for over 10 years. He is married to a Finnish woman. In this novel, the Finnish Inspector Vaara is married to Kate, an American.
Inspector Vaara is the requisite tortured and flawed policeman, although in this instance he really is tortured by extreme migraine headaches. There are numerous times that his previous case is referred to in the book, and since I haven't read the earlier book, I'm a bit lost when it comes to the background.
In this book, Vaara and his unlikeable partner Milo are called out to a particularly brutal crime scene. A married woman has been found beaten to death (and Thompson really relishes giving us the gory, vivid details) in her lover's apartment. The lover was present during the murder, but claims he was attacked and unconscious while the woman was killed. The husband, a Russian businessman, becomes a suspect, especially when it becomes apparent that he's also having an affair with a woman who is nearly a twin of his dead wife.
Vaara is also directed by his boss to investigate a Finnish national hero from WWII for possible war crimes. The situation becomes personal for Vaara when he discovers that the war hero served alongside his beloved late grandfather. If the war hero was guilty of war crimes, that so was dear old granddad.
To complicate matters, Vaara and his wife Kate are expecting their first child at any time. Kate has previously lost twins, so the couple is anxious that nothing go wrong this time. Kate's younger brother and sister come to stay with them on the pretext that they are going to "help out" once the baby is born. The brother is a drunken troublemaker and the sister a judgemental religious fundamentalist.
The situation of the WWII war criminal and the two American outsiders exist solely so that Thompson can lecture the reader on: a) Finland's involvement in WWII on the side of the Nazis (who victimized them as much as the hated Russians); and b) Finland's superior (to the US) social welfare society. There are long, preachy passages that are meant to enlighten the reader, but the author is assuming that the reader has an interest in the subject (I really didn't, and my husband is half Finnish!). Note to author: Tell the story, we don't need a history/civics lesson!
I also found the language to be unnecessarily crude. The "f-word" loses its intended impact when it's used 5 times in the same paragraph. Adding "-wad" or "-wit" or other suffixes to it don't make it a new word!
And what was with the hostility toward Mensa? He has two characters who supposedly are members -- both anti-social, deranged, drunken gun-nuts. Membership application rejected or something???
So, no, I'll have to say I didn't enjoy this one. The over-the-top unbelievable sex and violence scenes, the long, boring history lessons, and lack of any sympathetic characters have ensured that this visit to Inspector Vaara's Helsinki will be my last.
Final Verdict for Lucifer's Tears: One Gherkin, for a passable story told in an unpleasant manner
4 months ago