Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow Angels

Snow Angels is the first in a new mystery/crime series by James Thompson. The protagonist and narrator is Inspector Vaara, a police chief in the most northern part of Finland: Lapland. This is a dark book, in more ways than one. It takes place in the weeks before Christmas when there is no sunlight in this part of the world. Vaara is called to the scene of a gruesome murder in a snow-covered field, whose victim is a film actress and a Somali immigrant to Finland. To solve the case Vaara has to confront his own past, including failed relationships. At the same time he must comfort his new wife, an American, who is having a difficult time adjusting to the Finnish language and life.

I was tempted to drop the book about a third of the way in as the situations of all the characters seemed so bleak. However, I was soon drawn in to the story. I developed sympathy for many of the characters. The plot is very well crafted. I did not see the twists at the end. I am really looking forward to the next book in the series. I was impressed at how well the author, an American, seemed to understand the Finnish culture and character. And English readers benefit from reading the original, instead of a translation. Yet I would caution anyone who is squeamish that this is a very violent book.