Lucifer’s Tears by James Thompson

Genre: Mystery, Crime Fiction
Series: #2 in the Inspector Kari Vaara series
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 323
Source: Copy provided by the publisher

The Short Version:
In Helsinki, Inspector Kari Vaara, still reeling from last year’s events both physically and emotionally takes on a homicide investigation and political hot potato while at the same time worrying about his pregnant wife and the complications of her visiting family.

Why I Read It:
I thought the author’s first book (Snow Angels) was an incredibly impressive debut and I’ve been waiting for the follow-up for more than a year.

The Book:
Finnish Inspector Kari Vaara has a lot on his mind. The events that occurred last year are still haunting him. He and his American born wife Kate have moved to Helsinki and away from the small town in the north where Kari grew up. He’s now working for the homicide division. His wife is nearing the end of a fairly high risk pregnancy. Her brother and sister (whom she hasn’t seen in years) are visiting and planning to stay for a while after the upcoming birth.

Inspector Vaara is involved in several investigations. The most complicated of these is the gruesome torture and killing of the wife of a Russian businessman. Kari is being pushed by his superiors to wrap up the case and charge her lover with the crime but he’s not convinced the man is guilty and thinks someone might be framing him for the crime.

At the same time Kari is assigned to investigate a charge of war crimes targeted at an elderly national hero from World War II. The government wants this wrapped up as mistake because the last thing they want is to be put in the position of extraditing this man to Germany. What Kari doesn’t anticipate is his own grandfather’s connection in the events in question.

As if that’s not enough, he’s battling chronic migraines and insomnia that his wife and therapist are sure is post-traumatic stress from what happened in the first book, but Kari would rather just ignore it and hope it goes away.

My Thoughts:
What an impressive follow-up to an impressive debut. I’m now in the position of waiting the interminable months until the next book in this series is published.

Inspector Vaara is a wonderful character. He’s got problems but he’s a guy I want to end up happy even though at times it seems like that’s pretty unlikely with everything he’s got on his mind. The story is pretty brutal and the squeamish need not apply, but it’s interesting and the multiple issues and cases keep the action moving. Because the main character tells the story there are times that the action moving forward actually takes place in his thoughts but even that never feels like a lull in the pace.

I enjoy reading a crime story set somewhere other than a large U.S. city and moving this series from a small town into a large metropolitan city doesn’t change that. The atmosphere and history of Finland is very much a part of the story.

What I liked about this book is that unlike much crime fiction it’s not almost all about one case. There are multiple investigations and situations going on all at the same time. This adds to the sense of pressure and stress that the main character faces while at the same time dealing with his headaches and fears for the health of his wife and baby. Family is also very much a part of the story. As Kari faces fatherhood he’s also facing his own family’s history and that’s not always a pretty one. His wife’s brother and sister also add to the complex familial issues addresses in the story.

There is a lot going on in this book but it never feels like threads are dropped or too jumbled at all. It’s a well done, exciting and interesting book. The next one can’t get published soon enough for me.

If you haven’t read Snow Angels go get it and read it now. Then read this one. I will warn you that the outcome of the first book is openly talked about early on and throughout the second. You can read this one without having read the first, but why short yourself? Just read both of them.

Rating 4.5/5