The Multnomah County Library has a “if You Like Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo, You Might Enjoy . . .” list on their site, which led me to reserve Lucifer’s Tears by James Thompson. The novel had several things going for it: it’s set in Finland, and as I’ve lived there, this intrigued me. The story itself sounded interesting. Inspector Vaara is asked to investigate an elderly national hero who may or may not have committed war crimes during World War II. At the same time, Vaara is investigating a gruesome torture-and-murder case with political ramifications.
I really enjoyed this novel. The author clearly understands Finland, and according to the author’s bio Thompson has lived in Finland for a number of years and speaks the language fluently. (Trust me, that’s no easy task.) He highlighted the uniqueness of the Finnish culture against Vaara’s American in-laws, and it worked. Neither side felt like caricatures.
The mysteries themselves came to conclusions I didn’t expect, and did justice to both the novel and characters. Vaara’s home life is as important to the novel as the crimes themselves. It’s nice to see a detective in a novel with dynamic, loving home life. I liked the usage of Finnish names and the locations within Helsinki. Plus, the characters drink kossu!
If I was going to highlight flaws in the novel, I’d say two things:
1. I would have preferred to read the first in this series, Snow Angels, before reading Lucifer’s Tears. I hadn’t realized this was a series until I’d gotten a few pages into the novel.
2. While I liked the introspective tone, I thought the author slipped into a telling voice too often. For example, instead of telling the reader that Vaara and his new partner Milo hadn’t worked together for very long, he could have shown us. This happens throughout the novel, and while it occasionally jolted me out of the reading experience, it didn’t stop me continuing.
I’m definitely interested in checking out Snow Angels, especially since its set in Northern Finland.
Tags: Finnish crime novel