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Helsinki White (Inspector Kari Vaara #3)

3.54  ·  Rating Details  ·  845 Ratings  ·  179 Reviews
Two days after their daughter is born, Kari Vaara drops a bombshell on his American wife, Kate: He has a brain tumor . . . and he's been handpicked to run a rogue black-ops unit, using crime to fight crime.After recovering from surgery, he gets to work. The black-ops unit is small, and reports directly to Finland's national chief of police. They have secrecy, autonomy, and ...more
Hardcover, 326 pages
Published March 15th 2012 by G.P. Putnam's Sons (first published 2012)
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Upcoming Books of 2012 & 2013
450th out of 2,326 books — 3,767 voters
The Orphan Master's Son by Adam JohnsonHelsinki White by James ThompsonThe House of Velvet and Glass by Katherine HoweWhat Happened to Goodbye by Sarah DessenCarpathia by Matt Forbeck
My Favorite Reads of 2012
2nd out of 31 books — 9 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,840)
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Leighton Gage
Jul 08, 2012 Leighton Gage rated it it was amazing
"There’s a great myth believed by nearly everyone that Finland is corruption-free. Police and politicians are scripture pure, dedicated to the good of the nation beyond all things. Foreigners even write about it in travel guides for tourists." That’s Kari Vaara, telling us about his country in the first pages of James Thompson’s new novel, Helsinki White. Shortly thereafter, he goes on to say, "I run a heist gang. I’m a police inspector, shakedown artist, strong-arm specialist and enforcer…Three ...more
Apr 15, 2012 Fizzycola rated it did not like it
Sigh, I didn't like it.

The thing that made me come back to the Kari Vaara books was Kari Vaara himself. He wasn't in this book, not the Kari Vaara I liked.

Sadly, I think this wasn't a thriller at all. It was a political book with an agenda. Very, very Americanized. It's clearly aimed at American public. A Finn like me just gaped at the interpretation of our country and its people. Okay, I know it's fiction but I was insulted by the picture painted of some thinly disguised politicians. It just wa
John Wiltshire
Feb 01, 2016 John Wiltshire rated it did not like it
I crashed straight into this one from reading Snow Angels and Lucifer's Tears. I'm about 70% in now and I'm really wondering what the **** I'm reading. It's like a friend you know quite well, who's brilliant company when he's sober, who suddenly becomes unrecognisable when he's drunk: violent; amoral; foul-mouthed. It's a shock. The previous books were sharp, focused, sure. This is chaos.
I seriously cannot recognise Kari (the MC of the series) in this book. Sure, he's had brain surgery for a be
Mar 28, 2012 Naomi rated it really liked it

I must say that I have had a really rough time with reviewing this book. This is my second review. I have even gone outside to others to seek feedback. Here is why...

I, on average, read over 400 books per year. In those 400 books, I would say that 90% of the time after I have read them, they are out of sight out of mind with the ability to pull up a very basic synopsis, if needed. However, I have a couple of characters and authors whom I h
(Mild spoiler alert, if you haven't read book 2)

I'm in a bit of a quandary in writing this review, because of the duality within this book. In the first two Inspector Kari Vaara books, I've gotten to know a set of characters, and learn a bit about Finland. James Thompson threw a wild-card or two in at the end of the last book with both the new squad Kari would be heading and the diagnosis of a brain tumor. It is in this third book that both those elements shape the story, impacting the character
Apr 02, 2012 Anna rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookcrossing, 2012
First a recommendation for anyone new to Jim's books: read the Inspector Vaara series in order (Snow Angels, Lucifer's Tears, then Helsinki White. And then hopefully a lot more books to follow). The characters grow and change a lot in each book.

Even if the book and the story would work a standalone, each book will show you a different Finland.
A wild, very exotic Lapland (which was very exotic to someone who grew up in Helsinki too), then a classic Kallio/Helsinki with modern issues, and now He
Oct 05, 2012 Anita rated it liked it
Themes of racial hatred, drug wars and political manipulation and wrongdoings are the background for Inspector Kari Vaara's new job as leader of a black-ops group in Helsinki, Finland. Vaara is a new father who is recovering from surgery for a brain tumor as he begins his job with his cohorts Milo and Sweetness. I found the political messages and the racial intolerance overwhelmed the story, so much so that the resolution of the murder of a well-known immigrants' rights activist and the kidnappi ...more
Mar 19, 2012 Kathleen rated it liked it
Shelves: detective-series
Having read, and loved, the first two books in the Inspector Vaara series, by James Thompson, I was excited to receive a copy of the latest book, "Helsinki White". Inspector Vaara is a complex, fascinating character; a stoic man of principle, married to an American ex-pat, living and working in the harsh winter environment of Finland. The political atmosphere rivals that of the elements. Finland is experiencing an onslaught of immigrants from Somalia, the Arab nations, and muslims. And this pred ...more
Four and half star. Pleasantly surprised after Lucifer's Tears, expectations after that were a little tuned down. An half Star is missing only for certain plot points that went too far. I don't want go to a politics, but making True Finns (Perus Suomalaiset) just an anti-immigrant assholes and bad guys was bit too much, but i can forgive that because National Coalition Party (Kokoomus) gets some of the blame, and they are the true Evil Ones (who probably worship the Great Cthulhu).

All the racism
Jan 29, 2012 Jacqui rated it really liked it
Shelves: thriller-mystery
American author James Thompson's Helsinki White (G.P. Putnam Sons 2012) is as much about Finnish politics as it is about heroine, crime, and catching the bad guys with unorthodox methods. What caught my attention when I selected the novel was that it's based in Finland, a country that isn't often the setting for detective stories, and it's told from the first person present tense of Inspector Kari Vaara, a Finnish law enforcement officer. I know nothing about what drives Finland's government, ec ...more
Mar 06, 2012 S.D. rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery-thriller
Kari Vaara is a cop in Finland whose wife, Kate, just had a baby girl and he is recovering from surgery to remove a brain tumor. The operation has left him with a loss of emotion, something his brother assures him will pass. Now that he is back at work, his boss wants him to run a rogue unit and he is allowed to pick his own team. Sweetness is the muscle of the group while Milo is the computer expert. They fall easily into their job of stealing drugs, guns and money from thugs, putting trackers ...more
Feb 06, 2012 Victoria rated it really liked it
I have enjoyed this mystery series, set in Finland, since its very first installment. Each book has had something of an ominous ending, making me eager to read the next in the series as Kari Vaara continues to develop. This book, however, was a much darker read than any in this already fairly grim series. His career takes quite a turn, and as the plot builds, one thing leads to another, making Vaara a different man than the one I at least first grew to like in the series' debut, Snow Angels.
May 02, 2012 Ed rated it it was amazing
Hardboiled to its core, Helsinki White offers us a glimpse into the Black Ops of the Finnish police authorities. The racist bad guys and their heinous attitudes made for difficult reading. The secondary characters are well-rounded and solid. The Finnish culture and landscape are another high point.
Jul 01, 2014 Jeff rated it did not like it
Helsinki White reads like the dark power fantasy of a high school loser who's spent too much time playing video games and getting beat up and picked on by jocks and stoners and not enough time learning the English language or even the basic fundamentals of story-telling. At first I was willing to excuse the poor prose, assuming it to be due to either the work of a bad translator or the book being written in English by a non-native speaker. Then I found out it wasn't translated and that English i ...more
Luanne Ollivier
Mar 19, 2012 Luanne Ollivier rated it liked it
I devoured the first two books in James Thompson's Inspector Vaara series. and was eager to pick up the latest - Helsinki White.

Vaara has never been a follow the rules kind of cop - instead he bends them, but only to see that justice was served.

But, in Helsinki White, Vaara has become the leader of a 'black-ops' unit, comprised of himself, Milo and Sweetness, his two odd, but lethal associates. All this is done at the request of his immediate superior. The idea is to fight crime with crime
Mar 09, 2012 Carrie rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I was lucky enough to win an Advanced Readers Copy of Helsinki White, the third installment in the Inspector Vaara series. I am so glad I did because I was highly anticipating reading it after finishing the second installment, Lucifer's Tears.

(I don't want to give anything away, so I've limited my summary to info that's pretty much included on the back of the book.)

In Helsinki White, much has changed in Kari Vaara's life. He has some health concerns, his wife has recently given birth and is str
May 04, 2013 Katy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of dark mysteries, well-told stories
Recommended to Katy by: Vine
Book Info: Genre: Mystery/Noir
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Fans of dark mysteries, well-told stories, surprises galore, good characters
Trigger Warnings: murder, vigilantism, hate speech (n-word), hate crimes, torture, drug use and abuse, drug dealing
Animal Abuse: cat murder x4; I liked Arvid, but I don't think I can forgive him for murdering four grieving cats. A dog, a Fila Brasileiro, attacks the group and is hit with a razor-tipped cane and Tasered, its leg put in a tourniquet, and th
I was lucky to win an advance copy from Goodreads and I couldn't put it down. James Thompson is one of my favorite writers.

Just like in Snow Angels and Lucifer's Tears Thompson has given us another well written, character driven, action-packed and powerful story. He once more opens our eyes to Finland's not so "silent hatred" and to the grim reality of racism and anti-immigration fervor in a place most of us assume to be a paradise where hate and violence have no place.

I like his direct - to the
Cathy Cole
Mar 13, 2012 Cathy Cole rated it really liked it
First Line: It's May second, a sunny Sunday, a chilly spring evening.

The national chief of police wants Kari Vaara to head a black ops unit intended to put the drug dealers in Helsinki out of business. Any money confiscated will be divided between the chief of police, various political figures, and Vaara and his team-- with the bulk of the money being used to finance the entire operation. Vaara agrees because he truly feels that this is his best chance to do good. First though, he has other busi
Nov 26, 2013 Carol rated it liked it
This is the third book I have read by this author and although the stories are good and obviously reflect his knowledge of Finnish life and it's cultural quirks, I do find the excessive foul language and sex thrown in constantly a bit off putting, and distracting from a detective story. The plot here of racial discimination and neo Nazism in Finland was not something I was familiar with and if true, very depressing. I really like the adjunct characters of miles and sweetness and still feel the r ...more
Sep 24, 2013 Heidi rated it it was ok
I loved Snow Angels, which presented an unusual protagonist, who had become who he is both because of and in spite of his upbringing in a small, rural town in northern Finland. Kari Vaara was an unusual and interesting character. By this third book, even if it was through using the literary device of brain surgery, Kari has become kind of creepy, and Thompson couldn't seem to get enough of reporting all the racist and misogynistic thoughts of every character through Kari's unfeeling persona. I d ...more
Florence Wetzel
Apr 01, 2012 Florence Wetzel rated it really liked it
This was a really engrossing book. The characters are utterly charming, even when they are involved in immoral activities, and the author's prose is crisp and clear. Also, without being didactic, the author manages to convey a great deal of information about modern Finland, and he's not afraid to tackle the ongoing issue of racism. And since the main character's wife is American, there are some really interesting comparisons between Finnish and American culture. Last but not least, you have to l ...more
Richard Ward
Oct 11, 2014 Richard Ward rated it it was ok
In Finland, a pig cop indulges in thuggery of all sorts, thinking that the ends justify the means. He quickly becomes the very kind of criminal he is paid to pursue. Meanwhile, Finnish neo-Nazis wage a race war against blacks, Jews, gypsies, Arabs, and immigrants of any other kind. In earlier books, American-born James Thompson had introduced the theme of quiet hatred brewing in Finland, his adopted homeland. Through this book he predicts that dark days are on the horizon, with the quiet hatred ...more
Jan 15, 2015 Annabelle rated it it was ok
I’ve read one other book by author Thompson which I really loved, Snow Angel. I loved the setting 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and the Lapp culture. In this book Thompson’s protagonist, Kari, a police inspector, is in Helsinki. He starts a black op where he and his motley crew, a techie, Milo, and a very large linguist, Sweetness, go about robbing drug dealers. A minister of immigration is beheaded, and an old crime of kidnapping the children of a racist millionaire cross paths. And Kar ...more
Harry Allagree
This is the second of Thompson's novels which I've read and I enjoy his straightforward, no-nonsense way of writing. In an afterword, he explains the motivation behind Helsinki White: the distorted picture which the media often gives of Finland, as well as the reality of the growing xenophobia throughout the European Union. He depicts vivid elements of this in the book. I look forward to two more of his works sitting on my shelf.
Jan 14, 2014 Jessica rated it really liked it
Thompson introduces a more American-flavored noir sensibility into his Finnish milieu, and it works for me - it's interesting to see the decidedly Scandinavian themes play out in a dark, but rather less hopeless, sort of way. Vaara definitely goes into very different directions here, but the way things come together in the end help repair some of what has shattered in his life.
Feb 09, 2012 Zeke rated it really liked it
pitch-black Finnish noir.

According to the author's bio, Thompson is originally from Kentucky and now lives in Finland. This perspective gives him a unique ability to describe Finnish culture to an American audience.

Would appeal to most Steig Larsson fans. Nordic setting, gritty violence, fast-paced. Also touches on the growing right-wing/racist elements in Finnish politics.
Apr 16, 2012 Arnie rated it it was amazing
I love James Thompson's books! Why? Because he shows you the people and the beauty of Finnland. He illustrates this all while telling you a great story intertwined with a dark and seamy side. Helsinki White is about racism, drugs,politics, guns, sex, murder and Vaapu! Inspector Vaara is in charge of "clean up" in Helsinki....Let the mayhem begin!
Ken Fredette
Jun 12, 2012 Ken Fredette rated it it was amazing
This was a extremely good read. Jim Thompson my hat goes off to you. How are you going to top this? What's the name of the next book for us readers, or is it undecided?
Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo
I really enjoy James Thompson and his Inspector Kari Vaara Series. He is a good writer, but this one left a slightly sour taste in my mouth. The Kari Vaara character that I've come to care about is almost unrecognizable to this reader. He has turned into a dirty cop and that I don't like, brain tumor or not. And the aftermath of the benign brain tumor - his emotionless state? Eh.

I also didn't care for Thompson's overt political views in the book. His adopted country's aggressive stance against
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Jim has suddenly passed away on August 1, 2014.

With his first internationally published novel, Snow Angels, James Thompson proved himself Finland’s best and most popular representative in the rise of Nordic noir. It was selected as one of Booklist’ s Best Crime Novel Debuts of the Year and nominated for an Edgar Award, an Anthony Award, and a Strand Critics Award. His novel, Lucifer’s Tears, has r
More about James Thompson...

Other Books in the Series

Inspector Kari Vaara (5 books)
  • Snow Angels (Inspector Kari Vaara, #1)
  • Lucifer's Tears (Inspector Kari Vaara, #2)
  • Helsinki Blood (Inspector Kari Vaara, #4)
  • Helsinki Dead (Inspector Kari Vaara, #5)

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