What has happened to Kari Vaara, the hero of the Helsinki police force? "After being shot twice in the line of duty and being decorated for bravery both times - and especially since Milo and I stopped a school shooting and were glorified in the press for saving the lives of children - I'm a nationally respected figure." He has fallen a long way since Thompson's two previous Vaara novels. In this noir and bleak novel, Kari is morally corrupt and bankrupt
Without any spoilers, the novel starts out with Kari and his wife becoming parents for the first time. Kate gives birth to a lovely girl, Anu. Shortly after this, Kari is asked to join a black ops division which reports directly to the chief of police. The idea is that Kari and his two henchmen (one a crazy genius and the other an alcoholic dimwit) will steal from the bad guys, keep part of the proceeds themselves, give some to the boss, and use the rest to fund the unit. Kari rationalizes to himself that he can make a positive difference by getting pimps, dealers, and all-around bad guys busted. He can do it high-tech, too, without violence - or so he thinks, despite both of his colleagues having a penchant for violence. However, Kate, his wife, says to him "That makes you a dirty cop." And she is right. However, in Kari's mind 'We're not going to war with the criminals of Helsinki, we're going to steal them broke and put them out of business."
Another problem that Kari has is that he has a brain tumor that needs immediate surgery. First there needs to be a biopsy and then the actual surgery which comes with many risks, some quite severe. Kari's brother is a neurologist and he speeds up the process at the hospital so that Kari gets first priority. In Finland, there is no cost for medical treatment and this whole surgery is free!
On the country's political side, a dark horse party is quickly gaining ground. This is called the Real Finn party, "like a more virulent strain of American Teabaggers." However, Real Finns practice hatred toward immigrants. "Other than hate, their agenda wasn't clear." Finland is in dire financial straits with nearly 20% of the population living below the poverty line. Jobs are being outsourced to other countries, inflation is high and wages are stagnant. It is a good petrie dish for a hate agenda.
When the head of Lisbet Soderlund is sent to the Finnish Somalia Network, all hell breaks loose. The Finnish Somalia Network represents Somali immigrants in Finland. Soderlund is a past member of the European parliament and, at the time of her death, is the minister of immigration and European affairs. Jyri, Kari's boss, asks him to work on the murder. They want Kari specifically to work on this murder because he solved the murder of the first high-profile black person ever murdered in Finland - the Sufia Elmi murder.
The book deals a lot with Kari's conflicting feelings about what he's doing, the fall-out from the murder investigation, and the corruptness found everywhere in Finland. There is a lot of talk about weapons and technology that I found boring, and the book proceeds with uneven pacing. There is a lot missing in this book compared to Thompson's two previous novels.