SNOW ANGELS by James Thompson

Book Quote:

“The snow is about three feet deep and she’s sunk about half that distance into it. She managed to thrash enough to make a snow angel. Her black body is ensconced in white snow stained with red blood. In places, blood has spattered and sprayed two yards away from her. Her corpse is starting to cool, and silver frost is forming on her dark skin, making it shimmer.”

Book Review:

Review by Bonnie Brody (JAN 24, 2010)

This debut mystery by James Thompson is a riveting read with all the best elements of a character driven mystery. Mr. Thompson was born and raised in the United States and has lived in Finland for the past decade. The book jacket indicates that he has worked as a “bartender, bouncer, construction worker, photographer, rare coin dealer, and soldier…before becoming a full-time writer.”

The mystery takes place in Finland during the time of Kaamos, that time of the year when the sun never shines, when it is dark all the time and the temperatures dip to forty degrees below zero. Winds howl, people become crazy, the crime rate escalates, and people drink. There is also a beauty in this land. “In winter, twenty four hours a day, unaccountable stars outline the vaulted ceiling of the great cathedral we live in. Finnish skies are the reason I believe in God.”

Though Finland is a country of only five and a half million people, it has a lot of violent crime. “The overwhelming majority of our murders are intimate events. We kill the people we love, our husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, parents and friends, almost always in drunken rages.”

The mystery opens up with the murder of a Somali movie star. She is found dead in a remote area of Kittila, a ski resort area in Finland. The murder appears to be racially and sexually motivated. The victim has been gruesomely mutilated and ugly racial words have been carved into her abdomen.

Inspector Kari Vaara is the detective in charge. He is married to a beautiful American who runs the large ski resort compound in the area. Recently, they have found out that she is pregnant with twins. As the mystery unravels, it appears that the man who Vaara’s first wife left him for thirteen years ago, may be the prime suspect in the murder. This brings Vaara’s motives for investigating the murder and his ability to be objective into question.

The novel provides a lot of information about Finnish culture and religion. Finns don’t talk much, they avoid emotional intimacy, always take their shoes off at the door and religion plays a large part in many of their lives. “The Saame people, Laplanders, suffer a lot of prejudice here, like Eskimos in Alaska.” During the Somalia uprising in the 1990’s, the Finns allowed several thousand Somalians to enter their country. For many Finns, these were the first black people they had ever seen. At first the Finns were benevolent, but then as the Somalians were given generous welfare packages, nice apartments and dressed well (because they didn’t spend most of their money on alcohol like many Finns), prejudice raised its ugly head. Thus, when the beautiful Somali actress is murdered, the question has to be asked: Is the murder racially motivated?

As Inspector Kari Vaara and his team work this case with its racial and sexual angles, it becomes apparent that there are also personal implications for the murder. The book offers fine character studies, a fascinating plot and is well-written in a somewhat noir style.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 56 readers
PUBLISHER: Putnam Adult; 1 edition (January 7, 2010)
REVIEWER: Bonnie Brody
AUTHOR WEBSITE: James Thompson
EXTRAS: Excerpt

More winter stories:

Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg

Water Dogs by Lewis Robinson

A Reliable Wife by Robet Goolrick

Also partially set in Iceland:

The Journey Home by Olaf Olafsson


March 17, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Character Driven, Class - Race - Gender, Debut Novel, Iceland, Mystery/Suspense, Noir

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