Thursday, December 10, 2009
When I was a teenager I visited Lapland, Finland, in August and the sun went down very briefly- I wondered then what it would be like to live in a place with constant sunshine during the summer- but I never considered what it would be like to live in the very same place during the dead of winter, without sunshine for weeks and months. After reading Snow Angelsby new author James Thompson I now have an idea!
Snow Angelsfascinates on many levels: the setting, the strange way of life in bitter cold and darkness, the cultural norms of the Finnish, and of course the fascinating mystery that unfolds. Lapland is a marvelous setting for a crime fiction novel- bleak, sad, icy, and the people we meet along the way are equally somber and odd.
The hero of our story, Kari Vaara, strikes a balance between the weathered detective with a questionable past and a seasoned investigator who has been given a second chance in life. I enjoyed the conflict between the two facets of his personality- his struggle to deal with his upbringing and failed first marriage and his determination to start a new life after marrying his second wife, an American businesswoman named Kate. He is a welcome protagonist to the crime fiction scene, full of the same inner struggles that motivate my two favorite fiction detectives, Harry Bosch and Erlendur Sveinsson.
The story gets underway quickly with the discovery of a woman’s mutilated body in a reindeer farm field. A look into the life of the victim, Sufia Elmi, reveals a woman who was searching for something in life: love, happiness, security, but never able to choose the right people to trust. As the details of her life and last moments is compiled, a series of equally disturbing events occur- a colleague’s son commits suicide, a seemingly catatonic family neighbor murders her husband, a woman is burned to death on a frozen lake, and a known sex offender strikes again, is it the darkness that drives everyone to madness?
SPOILER ALERT- SOME DETAILS MAY BE REVEALED IN THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPGH
Without giving too much of the plot away, I found the story engrossing and fast paced- it pulls you in quickly and keeps you riveted throughout, and the mysteries that unravel are well thought out. That said, I think a few of the plot lines could have been a little more intricately woven together, the Peter Ecklund character really doesn’t add much, his presence seems to be there to throw readers off and extend the story. Sufia’s father is another character that invites speculation and I wish some of the possibilities of involvement in the mysterious events had panned out. I also felt the solving of the book’s signature murder is too hasty, it could have been fleshed out a little more. Given that 2/3 of the book is spent investigating Elmi's death I felt the solution to her crime, summed up in just a few short paragraphs, was a bit disappointing.
Despite these comments I am eager to read the next installment in the Kari Vaara series. Author James Thompson has created a cast of characters you want to revisit, with secrets yet to be revealed, and has set them in an exotic locale that will surely captivate readers for many books to come.
I also want to note that I enjoyed the way James Thompson wove different crime statistics into the story along with little bits of cultural information about Finns, it truly gives the reader a glimpse into a whole other way of life.
Posted by Ana Dziengel at 5:53 PM