Thursday, January 14, 2010

Snow Angels by James Thompson

Title: Snow Angels
Author: James Thompson
ISBN: 9780399156175, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2010
Genre: Police Procedural, #1 Inspector Kari Vaara mystery
Rating: A

First Line: I'm in Hullu Poro, The Crazy Reindeer, the biggest bar and restaurant in this part of the Arctic Circle.

I've been feasting from the smorgasbord of Scandinavian mysteries for the past couple of years, so when I discovered a new-to-me crime fiction author from Finland, I couldn't wait to get a copy of the book.

One thing you may have noticed up above in the "Just the Facts" section of this review is that I don't list a translator. James Thompson is Kentucky -born and -raised. He's fluent in Swedish and Finnish and has lived in Finland for the past ten years. He's in the enviable position of not needing a translator. But I digress.

It's Kaamos, the bleakest time of year in Lapland just before Christmas. The unrelenting darkness and extreme cold above the Arctic Circle seem to make the residents drink to excess and do crazy things. Inspector Kari Vaara is used to this, but when a beautiful Somali immigrant's mutilated body is found in a snowfield, he knows that he has a potentially explosive situation on his hands. This murder could be a hate crime. It could be a sex crime. It could be both, but it's essential that Vaara keeps this case out of the national news because it could rock this small xenophobic nation to its foundations.

Once again I found myself immersed in a story where the setting is a character in itself. In this case, it was a very unsettling character for me because one of my ideas of hell is a place that's always dark and always cold. Thompson skillfully lets the landscape work its way under the skin without going over the top. I liked that.

I also liked the character of Vaara. Vaara is haunted by his rough childhood and his failed first marriage. His young American wife is finding it very difficult to adjust to Arctic climate and Finnish isolation and silence.

The pacing of Snow Angels flowed smoothly, and although I found the identity of the killer rather easy to solve, learning about Finland, the characterizations and the setting of the book more than made up for that one glitch. I'm really looking forward to reading Thompson's next book.

[Source: Amazon Vine Program.]


  1. I enjoyed this one. I for one kept changing my mind about who the killer was. It's a fantastic debut!

  2. Oh I'm so happy to see you liked this one as much as I did. It was part mystery with an interesting and intriguing cast and part learning about life and society in Finland.

    Loved it and want to read more of this author.

  3. Cathy - I never visit your reviews without learning about a great new title or author. In this case, both : ). Thanks.

  4. This novel sounds good for several reasons. I also like novels where the setting is an additional character. I'm thinking now this one might be good for my Gobal Challenge - Europe.

  5. I am seeing good reviews of this book all over the place. I know what this means. I need to pick up my copy and read it posthaste and get my own impressions out there. Thanks for sharing and I'm looking forward to this book.

  6. The book sounds good and the author sounds fascinating!

  7. Hadn't heard of this one but it's going on my radar. I've been reading quite a few scandinavian crime books and I do think part of the reason I enjoy them so much is the setting alone - just so different from where I live. Thank you for a great review!

  8. Your reviews of procedural series' is doing some serious damage to my tbr list :)

  9. you are not helping with my TBR, but thanks anyway :)

  10. Jenn- I'm really looking forward to his next book!

    Suzi-- I really enjoyed the look into Finland's culture as well as the lifestyle in Lapland.

    Margot K-- You're very welcome. I learn even more from your blog, even though I seldom comment. :)

    Margot JR-- It's going to be part of my Global Challenge reads. I hadn't read anything from Finland before.

    Kay-- Yes, I'd definitely like to see your own impressions of this book!

    Kathy-- Thompson does sound like a very interesting fellow, doesn't he?

    Iliana-- Yes, one of the perks of reading Scandinavian crime fiction is the setting. Johann Theorin's books are among the best at setting as character.

    Stacy-- I'd say I'm sorry, but I'm not! :o)

    Bernadette-- You're welcome! :)

  11. One of the things I love most about reading is learning. I know very little about Finland (although Bloduedd, Bookgirl of Mur-y-Castell, is from Finland). Thanks for the review!

  12. Jenclair-- As long as I can read, I'll never stop learning. I knew very little about Finland before I read this book. Now I feel I know enough to know that I want to learn even more. :)

  13. I did find this one at the library...well of course they had to get it ;)

  14. Blodeuedd-- Of course they did. I hope you like it! :)


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