I really liked James Thompson’s first Inspector Vaara novel, Snow Angels, but it was so desperately dark that it took me a while to brace myself to read the second one, Lucifer’s Tears.
But that much bracing wasn’t really necessary. Lucifer’s Tears, although not a happy-ending cozy, is much easier to live with. Kari Vaara and his wife have moved to the city, and it’s not polar night, so it’s both literally and figuratively lighter.
Vaara is still dealing with the consequences of his previous case — among other things, he’s had an unceasing migraine, and he and his wife are nervously expecting a baby following the loss of twins in the previous book. In addition, he’s getting used to a new job and new colleagues in Helsinki; no one really seems to know what to do with him. In fact, no one really seems to want to have anything to do with him.
He’s finally given a sensitive assignment that has a personal twist: he’s asked to investigate a national hero who’s been accused of war crimes during World War II — a man who served in the same unit as Kari’s beloved grandfather. He then gets involved in a second case, in which a wealthy (and annoyingly arrogant) Russian appears to be receiving protection from higher up in the police ranks. That, of course, won’t stop Vaara from pursuing the investigation.
The end of the book is such that you care more about Vaara’s personal life than the resolution of the cases: I’m glad I waited so long to read #2 because #3 is readily available and I won’t have to wait to see how the cliffhanger is resolved.