Review: Snow Angels by James Thompson

January 11, 2010 Challenges, Crime Fiction, Mystery/Suspense, Penguin, Review, Thriller 14

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; 1 edition (January 7, 2010)
  • ISBN: 0399156178
  • Source: Publisher

    A Somalian immigrant is found brutally murdered in a cold, dark snow field in Finland.  The case is assigned to Kari Vaara, the lead detective of the local small town police force.  The body is that of Sufia Elmi, a black movie actress.  Racism is a big problem in Finland, and it’s up to Kari to determine if Sufia’s death is the result of a hate crime or something much more.

    Kari’s character is a complex one.  He’s the only one of his siblings who didn’t leave town as soon as the opportunity arose.  One must wonder if he still feels guilty for the tragedy that struck his family when he was a child. Kari is forced to confront his past in order to deal with present.

    Kari is married to Kate, a young American woman who moved to Finland to manage a local ski resort.  Kaamos, ten days of complete darkness, have just begun.  Kate, pregnant with their first child,  is struggling to deal with the subzero temperatures and the vast differences in the Finnish and American cultures. Kate’s feelings of isolation are beginning to have an effect on Kari and their marriage as a whole.

    Thompson does an outstanding job with setting and characters in  Snow Angels.   While laying out the storyline, Thompson also educates the reader on the culture and customs of Finland.  His writing creates vivid images of the frigid Arctic setting and the emotionally cold individuals who inhabit it.  While Snow Angels is labeled as crime fiction, Thompson makes a statement social issues in the Finnish culture. We see a dark side of Finland, one I have never experienced before.

    And while this exploration into the social norms of natives are explored, Thompson also unveils a very brutal crime.  The pace of the storyline is perfect.  There wasn’t one segment of the book in which I felt was dragging on.  And just when I thought I knew the identity of the murderer,  the direction changed completely, leaving me guessing until the very end.

    Snow Angels is the first in a new series.  I impatiently await the second, scheduled for release in 2011.

    Warning: Mild profanity, scenes of a sexual nature

    Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge

    14 Responses to “Review: Snow Angels by James Thompson”

    1. bookmagic
      Twitter: bookmagicdeb

      This sounds very good! I especially love to read books that take place in these snowy regions. I’m adding this to my list. I don’t have any thrillers lined up.
      There should be a reading challenge about duplicate titles. When I saw this, I thought of Stewart O’Nan’s book of the same title.

    2. Geri

      Thank you for this great review, Jenn. A new author for me and you’ve really sparked my interest! It’s wonderful to read about the first book in a new series.I am going to look into this one for sure.

    3. Jen Forbus

      Jenn, so glad you enjoyed this one! It is a great debut from Thompson and I hope there are many more to come.

      I, too, enjoy the social complexities of this novel. It’s an element that grabs my attention in many crime fiction books. I believe it was Gregg Hurwitz…I think…who commented that crime fiction IS today’s social issue platform, and I couldn’t agree more with that.

      • Jenn
        Twitter: jennbookshelves

        I definitely agree. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy crime fiction so much!

    4. Kathy

      Wow, that sounds really interesting. I had no idea racism is a big problem in Finland and, like Jen, I think it’s great that the author included a social issue like that in the book.

      • Jenn
        Twitter: jennbookshelves

        Apparently it’s a problem because so many people are “closet” racists. They don’t overtly indicate their feelings in their words, but perhaps moreso in their actions.

    5. SuziQoregon

      I loved all the complexities of this one. The twists and turns of the investigation kept me changing my mind about who did it. Kari is a great character and I’m looking forward to the next one in this series.

    6. April

      Awesome review, Jenn! I had seen this book a bit ago and really wanted to read it. Now after reading your post, I am dying to read it!!!

    1. Baby it’s cold outside! « NovelWhore’s Blog

      […] also shared a Q&A with James.  I also direct your reviewing eyes to the thoughtful reviews on Jenn’s Bookshelves and Whimpulsive.  And there are more – if you’d like to share your thoughts on SNOW […]