Helsinki Blood


Kari Vaara is recovering from the physical and emotional toll of solving the Lisbet Söderlund case when he’s approached with a plea: an Estonian woman begs him to find her daughter, Loviise, a young woman with Down syndrome who was promised work and a better life in Finland . . . and has since disappeared.

One more missing girl is a drop in the barrel for a police department that is understaffed and overburdened, but for Kari, the case is personal: it’s a chance for redemption, to help the victims his failed black-ops unit was intended to save, and to prove to his estranged wife, Kate, that he’s still the man he once was. His search will lead him from the glittering world of Helsinki’s high-class clubs to the darkest circles of Finland’s underground trade in trafficked women . . . and straight into the path of Loviise’s captors, who may be some of the most untouchable people in the country.

As Kari works his new case, a past one comes back to haunt him when powerful enemies return to settle unfinished business. In a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, he is propelled toward a reckoning in which the stakes are life or death . . . and only the victors will be left standing.


"VERDICT Finnish noir is the current tone of Thompson’s series;… I still miss the Kari of Snow Angels. But readers who are already invested in this character ache to see him succeed. Just the fact that Thompson can make the situation believable and make us care is evidence of his talent."
—Library Journal

“James Thompson's prose blend of chilly Scandinavian atmosphere and dark Southern Gothic is unique and jolting, like an ice-cold straight razor slashed across sweaty flesh.  In Helsinki Blood there are equal measures of violence, detection, pathos, blood . . . and finally, sweet redemption.”
—C.J. Box, New York Times Bestselling Author of Force of Nature and Breaking Point

“Helsinki Blood is as dark and bracing as a Nordic winter . . . Kari Vaara blasts other maverick cops out of the (icy) water.”
—M. J. McGrath, author of White Heat and The Boy in the Snow

“I can’t get enough of this author. No one writes noir better, Nordic or otherwise.”
—Leighton Gage, author of Blood of the Wicked

“Inspector Kari Vaara’s latest nightmare barrels along at a breakneck pace as he faces enemies on his doorstep as well as his own demons within. James Thompson’s spare, no-frills action is straight to the point. Helsinki Blood as raw as it gets, it doesn’t pause for breath and it and takes no prisoners.”
—Quentin Bates, author of Frozen Assets and Cold Comfort

"Compelling - Thompson draws on his long residence in Finland to convincingly portray a grungy northern underworld."
—Publishers Weekly

"Kentucky native Thompson has created in Kari a hero as dyspeptic as Kurt Wallender and as prone to vigilante justice as Harry Hole"

“In his fifteen years of living in Finland, Kentucky born and-bred Thompson has absorbed enough cold, dark atmosphere for a spot on the roster of top Nordic crime writers Mankell, Nesbø, Indriðason and the like.”
—New York Post

“A must-read for fans of Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell.”

A bookshelf of new Nordic noir

Kirkus review—Helsinki Blood


A Second Kirkus Review of Helsinki Blood
An Inspector Vaara Novel. Putnam. Mar. 2013. 336p. ISBN . $26.95;

ebk. ISBN M

Denver Post

Kirkus Review 2

“The vigor of Thompson’s storytelling is a thing to behold.”

Nordic Crime fiction continues to captivate readers, new titles from Sweden and Finland.


Library Journal James Thompson: Helsinki Blood—early review

Library Journal

Finnish inspector Kari Vaara has been beaten down so thoroughly (after Helsinki White) that all bets are off as to his integrity or ability to handle the black-ops work his team has taken on. His wife has left him, but their baby is in Kari’s care. Meanwhile, thugs are targeting him because of his last case, reminding him of his vulnerability. Once that problem is addressed, Kari agrees to help an Estonian woman find her kidnapped daughter, who has Down syndrome. Wading into the dismal morass of human trafficking, Kari’s team goes vigilante. Clearly, there is no turning back. VERDICT Finnish noir is the current tone of Thompson’s series, and his bleak and crushingly violent opening will put off some readers; I still miss the Kari of Snow Angels. But readers who are already invested in this character ache to see him succeed. Just the fact that Thompson can make the situation believable and make us care is evidence of his talent. [See Prepub Alert, 9/17/12.]

Frightful Friday: Helsinki Blood by James Thompson: Review by Jenn

Bookreporter: Helsinki Blood

Helsinki Blood: Review by Syndicated Columnist, Elizabeth White

Luxury Reading: Helsinki Blood by James Thompson, Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

eWallstreet—Crime Fiction Picks for March

Criminal Element: Helsinki Blood Excerpt: Chapters 1 & 2

Bookpage: Helsinki Blood, by James Thompson
Everything to Prove, Nothing to Lose

The Rap Sheet
Review of Helsinki Blood + Excerpt

Leighton Gage Reviews Helsinki Blood

E. Bukowsky - "There are ten million ways you could die.",

She Knows Book Lounge - Crime Fiction Picks for March

Scandinavian Crime Fiction—Helsinki Blood

Reviewing the Evidence: Helsinki Blood

Criminal Element: Helsinki Blood Excerpt

Associated Press

Cognitive Resonance: by author John Meaney

Nordic Bookblog

Mystery People

London Free Press

Bookreporter - Helsinki Blood: An Inspector Vaara Novel, by James Thompson

You want dark with your literature? I have some dark for you. The book is HELSINKI BLOOD, and the author is James Thompson. It should come wrapped in a shroud instead of a cover. Thompson, a native Kentuckian who now resides in Finland, covers the waterfront of noir crime fiction to a degree and manner that few can match.

Thompson puts one in the mind of Ken Bruen, and while the literary styles of the two men are very different, they are truly sons of different mothers, with Bruen’s Jack Taylor and Thompson’s Vaara blood cousins. At one point I literally stood up and screamed, “NO! NO! You can’t DO that!” Thompson could do it, of course, and he did. As Bruen often does, Thompson goes head first and full in where both angels and demons fear to tread. For those who picture Finland as a dull sort of place where little but fishing occurs, an afternoon with Thompson and HELSINKI BLOOD will change your waking and sleeping impressions of that country forever….

Noir Nation—Helsinki Blood

The Reading Room—Helsinki Blood
Blood solidifies Thomson’s status of a great storyteller who goes well beyond creating just crime fiction. It is hard not to draw some parallels here with The Girl with Dragon Tattoo since Thomson has now shown us a few times that similarly to Stieg Larsson he is also prepared to tackle some serious social issues that plague Scandinavian countries: substance abuse, nationalism, anti-immigrant attitudes and deeply ingrained criminal activities. Be forewarned that the whole series is not for faint hearted but if you are looking for intelligent crime fiction that will keep you reading till the middle of the night and will keep you thinking about it for a lot longer this is definitely a book to try….

Newsday - Nordic noir from Thompson, Soderberg and Edwardson “It's not a book for the fainthearted. Still, if you hanker for a gory trip into the Helsinki underworld - and yearn for a taste of tar-infused salmon - this tough, spare novel is worth the read.”

Thoughts of Joy—Helsinki Blood

Reviewing the Evidence—Helsinki Blood

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…. 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.
Black is back—Helsinki White

“Imagine your most virulent American Tea Baggers, remove any last shreds of restraint or reason, and what you picture left over will be an accurate portrait of racism in Finnish politics," Thompson says. "Influential racists here in the Nordic region publicly state opinions that are only spoken of in hushed whispers in darkened rooms in the US. Nordic racists make the American version look like girl scouts."

This reviewer hasn’t read Helsinki Blood yet, but I like overviews of my work.

Now is Gone: Helsinki White
I'm even more desperate to continue this series now. I want to know what happens next. I'm hoping for the best but expecting the worst, as that seems to be the way this series is going. However, speaking for the series as a whole now, I can highly recommend it to those who enjoy their murder mysteries dark, their characters interesting (if not necessarily nice), and their stories well-told. Be sure to check them out if you haven't already.

Now is Gone: Lucifer’s Tears
Like Snow Angels, the denouement completely blew me away….The ending of this book is sort of bittersweet, but I'll leave the discovery as to why up to you.  I will say that if you enjoy a really well-done mystery, you won't want to miss this terrific series by James Thompson. Highly recommended.

Now is Gone: Snow Angels
It is called kaamos—two weeks of unrelenting darkness and soul-numbing cold that falls upon Finnish Lapland, a hundred miles into the Arctic Circle, just before Christmas. Some get through it with the help of cheap Russian alcohol; some sink into depression…This year, it may have driven someone mad enough to commit murder. The brutalized body of a beautiful Somali woman has been found in the snow, and Inspector Kari Vaara must find her killer. It will be a challenge in a place where ugly things lurk under frozen surfaces, and silence is a way of life.

As you can tell, I like overviews:


Writerspace: Review of James Thompson’s Helsinki Blood

Trrc Reading Helsinki White Review



July eleventh. A hot summer Sunday. All I want is some goddamned peace and quiet. Now my house is under siege, I have an infant to both care for and protect, and I’m forced to do the last thing I wanted to do: call Sweetness and Milo, my colleagues and subordinates, or accomplices—the definition of their role in my life depends on one’s worldview—and ask them for help.

I’m shot to pieces. Bullets to my knee and jaw—places I’ve been shot before—have left me a wreck. Only cortisone shots and dope for pain enable me to get around with a cane, speak and eat without wanting to scream. I’m still recovering from a brain tumor removal six months ago. The operation was a success but had a serious side effect that left me flat, emotionless.

My feelings are returning as the empty space where once a tumor existed fills in with new tissue, but I only feel love for my wife and child, and intermittent like for one or two others. My normal state and reaction toward others is now irritability. My wife, Kate, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has run away from home, out of control of her own emotions, and abandoned me.

These combined problems, any one of which would drive a person to distraction under the best of circumstances, cloud my judgment and affect my behavior. My judgment and behavior were already clouded. I feel so certain it will all end badly that it seems more a portent than an emotion. Auguries and omens of catastrophe seem all around me, just out of sight, but every time I turn to face them, they disappear like apparitions.



United Kingdom


International Editions

Putnam Adult
(March 21, 2013)
320 pages

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