My favorite International Mystery these days is the Finnish series Vares. The series hero is Private Eye Jussi Vares played by Antti Reini. Vares has seen better times, and now must take just about any job offered. Like many fictional detectives he is popular with women and not so popular with the police. He drinks more than he should, he's often careless about where he goes and who he trusts, though he really doesn't trust anyone. Jussi does love his cat, and that's very endearing.
This is only the second Finnish series I've seen, the first being the great Felliniesque RAID. Like the previous Finnish series, Private Detective Vares explores the dark, sinister, and gruesome underbelly of crime and corruption at all levels of society. The case usually starts as a rather common case for PI Jussi, maybe a divorce and adultery case or missing persons, and then spirals totally out of control. Somehow Vares often is tied up at the end, and I mean literally. Part of the fun is wondering how he'll get out of this predicament alive when bound hand, foot, and body to a chair, or chained to something.
There are other regular characters in this series. One of them is the city of Turku. Like all great literary detectives, Vares is identified with a specific geographic location, though he does wonder away once in a while. Turku I understand from a bit of research is the oldest city in Finland and a very historic city. But in this series we only catch brief glimpses of that past. Our Turku is the modern city and all our modern problems.
Lovely views of Turku
Thanks to Wikipedia
Jussi does have his friends who help him, or hinder him, in his investigations. Similar to Raid in some ways, these friends are pretty eccentric and not the pillars of society. One is a writer who never finishes or publishes, one is a reverend or priest thrown out of his church, who runs a second hand bookstore, one is a drug addict,one is a tabloid journalist, and they are the good guys. Vares also has a friend in the police who sometimes enlists him to help, and helps him with inside information in return.
I should mention Vares is in love with his neighbor, taxi driver/stripper Anna. She however is not always in love with him, though she does act as his "Watson" in many of the episodes. But don't worry, Jussi is seldom lacking for female company.
The Vares TV series and films are based on the books by Reijo Maki.
Vares is played by Finnish actor Antti Reini
Reini is a self trained actor who has starred in a number of Finnish and Swedish films and TV series as well as a German detective series.
Antti Reini as Vares
Though he's the only one I've seen as Vares, it seems he replaced another actor, Juha Veijonen, who played the detective until 2010. According to Wikipedia, Veijonen also appeared in the Finnish or Scandinavian version of "Dancing with the Stars".
Below is a trailer from an episode of Vares (alas in Finnish only)
Check your local PBS station to see if they are showing episodes of Vares, or check the MHz Networks website: