Sunday, February 24, 2013

International Mystery: Private Detective Vares

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. 
Maria Jarvenhelmi

The Vares TV series and films are based on the books by Reijo Maki. 

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".

 Juha Veijonen

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:



  1. Alas,neither PA or NJ show any MHZ programs. Looks good though. The NJ station is still showing Foyle's War and Rosemary and Thyme. Both good programs but I can watch them on Netflix.

    1. Too bad only a few PBS stations in the country show the International Mystery programs. MHZ sells DVD's, but they are very expensive I think. One of our stations is now showing Rosemary and Thyme and I like it too. I think I've seen all episodes but always watch again. I like Foyle's War too.

  2. Interesting -- I used to read a lot of Nordic crime novels when I was living in Germany but have sort of fallen out of the habit. Putting this on my list. Thanks.

    1. My pleasure. Nordic crime novels, or for me mostly TV programs, are my favorite. Glad that I could give you a good suggestion of a new series to read.

  3. Hi Everyone,

    You can watch the Vares series on line free every Saturday evening on kcsm tv from San Mateo, CA.
    kcsm also airs most all of the mhz international mystery series. kcsm has been thee best public tv station for 50 years. Unfortunately, people didn't donate/support it anymore and now the college is being forced to sell it. If just 100,000 people would contribute $40 to $60 US dollars each year, then maybe we could keep a really great tv station like this going.

    1. Welcome Sumitra! thank you so much for the information about kcsm in CA, and sad to read that if people don't support it and their great programming it will be sold. What a loss to San Mateo.

  4. Also, if anyone has seen episode Gambling Chip #105 of Vares, I would greatly appreciate knowing what the heck happened at the end.
    Was it the key to the handcuffs that was in the cat food? And if it was the key how did it get there? My guess was that the Russian hit man was murdered and then ground up in the cat food and he had swallowed the key? Or he women who ran that company put the key in the cat food?

    1. I don't remember sumitra. I think MHZ is repeating Vares right now, I'll check and see when episode is on :)

    2. Just watched "Gambling Chip" - It was the chip (or it looked like half a chip) in the cat food. So they ground up the body and the chip was canned - actually unrealistic as they have sensors for such. How did it get to Sole's brother's cat ... coincidence?
      And who killed Sole - was it suicide? Hey, a mystery that remains such ... definitely a step up from the last one which could have (and has) occurred anywhere in the US midwest - flat, corn belt, religious hypocrites - and had Vares saved by Shit Coat turning up ... why?
      But sure the drinking is for real in Finland and the series is - different

    3. During the credits the bad fat lady selects a can from the cat food processing line - this would contain the ground up hitman and his gambling chip, Assume she sends the can to Sole's brother as a 'Screw U I got away with it" message. Definitely it was (half) a gambling chip in the cat food bowl. Maybe the director is referencing the wonderful into to "Prime Cut" w/ Lee Marvin, Gene Hackman & a very young Sissie Spacek. There the mafia enforcer hits not Gene, but the meat processing belt, and is followed thru the food factory until his remanis, now sausages, are wrapped and returned to the mob "special delivery, Chicago" ... anyway, food for thought (sorry!). And the key? I think the magpies have it.

  5. Thanks Anon and Don!---but it's been so long since I saw the episode that I can't remember why I asked the question! LOL I am going to have to find a source to watch it on line for free since KCSM MHz is not showing this and I don't subscribe to Netflix or such....

    1. Glad there were some answers for you Sumitra

  6. This is really awesome information for me, I did not read ever this types of blogs about private detectives. Thanks!

    My Spy – Private Investigators


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