Snow Angels by James Thompson
Genre: Mystery
Series: #1 in the Inspector Vaara series (new series)
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 264
Challenges: none
Source: ARC from publisher (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)

The Short Version:
First in a planned new series that’s intriguing enough to have me looking forward to the second book already.

Why I Read It:
Jen at Jen’s Book Thoughts said it was a good debut which was good enough for me and then she gave Putnam my name (thanks Jen!). When I was offered a review copy I quickly said yes.

The Book:
Kari Vaara is a detective in his small hometown in Lapland. The story opens with the brutal murder of a Somali refugee who had made a name for herself as an actress. It’s just before Christmas north of the Arctic Circle and the unceasing night and brutal cold of winter has maximized the sense of depression for everyone. As Kari investigates the murder he soon finds that the possible suspects include people he knows. It may be a sex crime or a hate crime, but because of the notoriety of the people and his connections to them, Inspector Vaara has the added complications of the media spotlight and the scrutiny of the National Chief of Police. At home, his pregnant American wife is having trouble coping with the arctic winter as much as the people and culture of her husband’s homeland. Is his ultimate goal truth or justice? Can he find both by the end of this story?

My Thoughts:
This book is perfect for reading in the dark and cold of winter. The darkness and cold almost become characters in the story. The effect of the brutal winter impacts almost everyone in the book. The setting in the far north of Finland was a new one for me and I found it interesting. It was a nice change to read a police procedural type of mystery that wasn’t set in a large American city. James Thompson has lived in Finland for many years although he was born in Kentucky. As Inspector Vaara tells the story he’s up front about the depression and often hard drinking that often comes with the season. He sees how his American wife has trouble dealing with it, but frankly he’s preoccupied with a case that becomes more and more personal as the investigation proceeds.

I liked Vaara as a protagonist. He’s got his flaws, but since he’s telling the story I was privy to his thoughts. That’s important because the Finnish people come across as silent and isolationist so a third person narrative wouldn’t get to the inner turmoil that Vaara hides. There are a few over the top coincidences, but the combination of the setting, story and writing made me want to zip through this one without putting it down any longer than necessary.

It’s a dark story in a dark setting. It’s brutally violent and not for the faint of heart. I got to know Inspector Vaara enough that I know I want to hear more from him.

Please check out Jen’s Book Thoughts’ wonderful interview with James Thompson.

4 stars Rating 4/5