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Snow Angels by James Thompson

Snow Angels (2009)

by James Thompson

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Meet Kari Vaara. He is the inspector for a small town outside of Finland's capital of Helsinki. Just before Christmas, during the darkest time of the year in Lapland, he is confronted with the brutal (and I do mean brutal) murder of a semi-famous immigrant Somali actress. She has been viciously sexually assaulted and a racial slur has been carved into her stomach. Sex crime? Hate crime? Both? As lead investigator Vaara must sort through the clues; clues that dredge up his own haunted past. My only complaint was as lead detective Vaara should never have been allowed to stay on the case once it looked like his ex-wife's boyfriend was good for the crime. In my culture Vaara would have recused himself and left the investigation, especially since his ex-wife left him devastated. His fingering the boyfriend for the murder could be a revenge accusation. SPOILER ALERT: if not after the first murder, but certainly when his ex-wife is also murdered he should have handed over every part of the investigation and stepped as far back as possible. Just my two...
Okay, and I have another complaint albeit a small one. This is definitely an adult book. The themes, the language, the sex and violence...well, the violence was especially over the top and so many deaths (six in all) seemed unnecessary. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Jul 24, 2015 |
I enjoyed the suspense of the book; however I did find it hard to connect with characters, just because it lacked some detail of getting to know them. The book was more about the “snow angels” then about who is who and why. However, it could be that with this being the first book of a series that the characters build during the other books. I love the fact that you get sucked into the darkness of the plot. I believe that is what makes you want to turn pages, because I surely did that. I did, in fact, enjoy the novel and I will be waiting for the second book to come out.
It is brutally violent, dark, harsh words, but yet it sucked me into wanting more. Definitely more of an adult book, unless you like the dark suspense like I do. ( )
  wjbooks | Nov 27, 2013 |
Snow Angels, an Inspector Vaara Novel. James Thompson. 2009. Thompson is an American living in Finland. His character is a Finnish policeman married to an American who is having trouble adjusting to living in Finnish Lapland. Vaara is called to investigate the murder of beautiful Somali woman. The details of Finnish culture and the people are fascinating. This is a great start of a series; I hope the others are as suspenseful. ( )
  judithrs | Oct 13, 2013 |
Psychological thriller by an American author who has lived in Finland for several years, about the sheriff of a small town in rural Finland who must solve a murder during the sunless winter season. The victim is a glamorous black actress, and the murder is an obvious hate crime - the victim, Sufia, has been mutilated, sexually assaulted, and the murderer cut a racial slur into her stomach with a knife.

The local sheriff, Kari, is worried about the publicity that will surround the grisly murder of a celebrity. He insists on investigating the case himself, although the Chief of Police in Helsinki offers to ship out a contingent of big city cops - but Kari begins to regret his decision when the #1 suspect turns out to be his ex-wife's new man, Seppo. Kari knows he's moved on, that his new wife Kate is the best thing that's ever happened to him, but the media spin Kari as a bad cop out for revenge when he arrests Seppo.

As he continues his investigation, the details get more lurid but also more personal. Sufia had been sleeping around and taking money for sex - while her parents, devout Muslims, fly into town and insist she was a virgin. The other main suspect is a wealthy playboy with a taste for underage girls. Their best witness is mentally handicapped, and could never testify. One of the other cops on the force is hiding something, and eventually Kari begins to suspect his ex-wife.

Thompson's writing is vigorous and spare, and he does an excellent job bringing the beauty and the terrible harshness of the Finnish winter to life. The main characters, their problems and relationships, are compelling. Minor, secondary characters feel real and complex no matter how brief their appearance. The story is peppered with all kinds of interesting factoids - about the Swedish minority in Finland, or the war in Somalia - that give the novel added breadth without sacrificing dramatic tension. I found SNOW ANGELS hard to put down - I read it straight through in one sitting, cover to cover, with relish. ( )
  Hanneri | May 22, 2013 |
Book Info: Genre: Mystery/Noir
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Fans of dark mysteries, stories set in Scandinavia, well-developed characters, well-done mysteries
Trigger Warnings: murder, hate-crime, sexual assault, use of racist and sexist language (n-word, w-word, and c-word), religious zealotry

My Thoughts: This is a very dark story. It seems that most murder mysteries set in Scandinavia are very dark, which is interesting considering how few murders overall are committed there. In fact, looking at the statistics regarding serial killers in the US vs. just about everywhere else in the world was mighty sobering.

Like any mystery, there is not much I can tell you about the plot because I don't want to give out spoilers. However, there are red herrings a-plenty, and I had no idea what to expect with the ending. The character development is very good, and Finland sounds like a place that is dear to the author's heart, in all its sometimes dismal and dreary reality. If you enjoy mysteries that wander off into the noir realm, if you enjoy stories based in Scandinavia, then you'll want to be sure to check out this series of books.

Series Information: Snow Angels is the first book in the Inspector Vaara series.
Book 2: Lucifer's Tears, to be read next, provided by publisher for an honest review
Book 3: Helsinki White, upcoming, provided by Amazon Vine for an honest review
Book 4: Helsinki Blood, I do not have, but it is on my wishlist

Disclosure: I bought this book for myself. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: It is called kaamos—two weeks of unrelenting darkness and soul-numbing cold that falls upon Finnish Lapland, a hundred miles into the Arctic Circle, just before Christmas. Some get through it with the help of cheap Russian alcohol; some sink into depression.

This year, it may have driven someone mad enough to commit murder. The brutalized body of a beautiful Somali woman has been found in the snow, and Inspector Kari Vaara must find her killer. It will be a challenge in a place where ugly things lurk under frozen surfaces, and silence is a way of life. ( )
  Katyas | May 2, 2013 |
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Monet ihmiset ovat auttaneet minua kirjoitustyössäni rohkaisemalla, kommentoimalla ja kritisoimalla, ja olen heille kiitollinen. Neljä ihmistä on vuosien mittaan uhrannut aikaansa, tarmoaan ja taitojaan, jotta kehittyisin kirjoittajana: kirjallisuudentutkijat Nely Keinänen ja Phillips Brooks, lahjakas kirjailija Joel Kuntonen ja loistava lukija Juha Tupasela.
Kiitos. Teidän hyvän tahtoisuutenne koskettaa minua ja saa minut nöyräksi. Tämä romaani on omistettu teille.
Sekä Annukalle, kuten aina.
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I'm in Hullu Poro, The Crazy Reindeer, the biggest bar and restaurant in this part of the Arctic Circle.
Americans ramble on about politics but have a low voter turnout. Finns seldom talk about politics, but around eighty percent vote in presidential elections. We don’t talk about hatred, we hate in silence. It’s our way. We do everything in silence.
. . . I went to New York for a semester as an exchange student. What struck me most was the sky. On that side of the world, so far away from the North Pole, the sky is flat and gray, a one-dimensional universe. Here, the sky is arched, and there’s almost no pollution. In spring and fall the sky is dark blue or violet, and sunsets last for hours. The sun turns into a dim orange ball that transforms clouds into silver-rimmed red and violet towers. In winter, twenty-four hours a day, uncountable stars outline a vaulted ceiling of the great cathedral we live in. Finnish skies are the reason I believe in God.
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Here's the first thriller in a new series featuring Inspector Kari Vaara, the haunted, hardened detective who delves into Finland's dark underbelly. Just before Christmas, during the bleakest time of the year in Lapland, the unrelenting darkness and extreme cold above the Arctic Circle drive everyone just a little insane...maybe enough to kill. Once a big-city "hero cop," Vaara's retreated to his hometown to nurse unhealed wounds. Now he's put himself under intense pressure to solve a case without asking for outside help, and he suspects the rich man for whom his ex-wife left him years ago may be the killer.… (more)

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