Inspector Kari Vaara’s success in cracking the Sufia Elmi murder (Snow Angels, 2010) wins him a transfer from the sticks to Helsinki, below the Arctic Circle but just as hospitable to cold-blooded murder.
Two cases compete with his wife’s pregnancy, already complicated by pre-eclampsia and an extended visit from her boorish American brother and sister, for Kari’s attention. The more florid case is the murder of Iisa Filippov, who was stripped, bound, beaten with a riding crop and burned with cigarettes before she died. Everything about the ritual killing points to her ice-water husband Ivan, who owns an asbestos-removal business, and his secretary Linda Pohjoda, who bears an uncanny resemblance to both the murder victim and the 1950s bondage pinup girl Bettie Page. But Kari is repeatedly stonewalled by Ivan and hamstrung by his boss, national police chief Jyri Ivalo. More intriguingly, Jyri seems just as interested in the more obscure case, an allegation that Finnish war hero Arvid Lahtinen, at 90 the sole survivor of Stalag 309, was actually complicit with the Nazis in running the camp and executing its inmates. Recognizing that Arvid may have been in cahoots with government higher-ups and Kari’s own grandfather, Kari keeps returning to him for one more round of questions till his two leading cases (there are others as well) collide with a satisfying snap.
Nazi collaboration, government cover-ups, kinky sex, a baby daughter waiting impatiently to be born and a vigilante-minded hero who talks back to his boss more irreverently than Dirty Harry. What more could you want?