mandag den 1. februar 2010

James Thompson, Snow Angels (2010)

[Denne krimi er ikke udgivet på dansk endnu, men da den amerikansk-fødte forfatter er bosat i Finland, og hans første engelske krimi er af rigtig god kvalitet, må man næsten regne med den dukker op i Skandinavien inden så længe.]

This ARC was sent to me by the American publisher. The novel was out in the USA in January. The writer was born in Kentucky, but has lived in Finland for ten years. The novel is the first in a planned series about the Finnish Inspector Kari Vaara. It is not the author´s debut, but the first book which has been published in English.

The environment is the northern part of Finland, inside the dark winter of the Arctic Circle, and the temperature is minus forty degrees Celsius!

“There would be silence, but cold has a sound of its own. The branches of trees freeze solid and crack under the weight of snow with sounds like muted gunshots. The snow freezes so hard that its surface contracts and takes on a pebbled texture. It crackles underfoot, even when I think I´m standing still.”

Kari Vaara´s American wife Kate is the competent manager of a local entertainment centre with hotel, bar and restaurant. She is a beautiful, young woman who is expecting their first child, and only recently has she begun to realize that she is less than thrilled about living in the ´exotic´ Arctic Circle among perpetually happy people:

“This winter, I feel like the cold and dark will never end. I get it now that people weren´t happy, just drunk. It makes me depressed. It´s terrible. Being pregnant in Finland seems scary, makes me homesick for the States.”

The plot begins when a murder victim is found on a reindeer farm, a Somali movie star called Sufia Elmi. An unpleasant crime because, as Vaara explains, “Fins are sensitive about race relations because by and large we´re closet racists”, and because the woman has been horribly mutilated.

Within a day or two Vaara believes he has cracked the case when he discovers that his ex-wife´s lover was closely connected to the victim. But is it really so simple, or does he let his hate of his former wife colour his opinion?

This debut has several very strong points: the knowledgeable and observant writer conveys a strong sense of place in the winter-dark Finland, his new home country. The protagonist and his wife are a likeable couple, happily married but with the ups and downs any couple have to live with.

The plot is fine, and though it is dark and dramatic, I ´bought it´ because the writer convinced me that these things could easily happen during the seemingly eternal night of the Arctic Circle. So beware! In spite of the apparent reindeer idyll, this is noir, and not at all a cozy Christmas story.

One small minus because the writer is so eager to portray the Finnish environment that occasionally he tells his reader too much.

I read the book as part of the 2010 Global Reading Challenge, Europe, Finland.

Another review of Snow Angels by Material Witness

13 kommentarer:

Jose Ignacio Escribano sagde ...

Dorte with this review you are also covering the Artic Pole for your Reading Challenge.
Best regards

Dorte H sagde ...

Jose: yes I did! :D Pity it isn´t a continent. But the book is good, which is most important.

Elizabeth Spann Craig sagde ...

Wow...I can't imagine moving from Kentucky (warm place) to Finland! That would be an interesting move to make. And the book looks interesting, too--thanks for the tip, Dorte!

Mystery Writing is Murder

Dorte H sagde ...

Elizabeth: I agree 100 %. I enjoyed reading about it, but living there? Never in my life. I think the dark would be even worse than the cold, and that is also what the book tells me: people grow depressed, sometimes insane, after years in this dark deepfreezer.

Uriah Robinson sagde ...

I have an ARC of this book on the way from the USA and now I am looking forward to reading it.

pattinase (abbott) sagde ...

That last point is interesting. It is hard not to get too involved with the setting some time, hard to balance with two.

Dorte H sagde ...

Norman: I am sure you will enjoy it very much for the setting. It is quite like being there!

Patti: yes, I know. And it is a small minus - in a way it was rather likeable that he was so engaged in his new environment.

Søren sagde ...

Sounds like a book for me: noir in Finland :-)

Barbara sagde ...

We moved from Kentucky (with a detour in the Middle East) to Minnesota. Not as dark, but pretty cold.

Just a teeny correction: it wasn't translated into English, it was written in English, then first published in Finnish translation before it got a US publisher.

Maxine Clarke sagde ...

Good review, Dorte, thank you - makes me want to read the book even more.
I wonder what it is about Finland and geography? Ice Moon by Jan Costin Wagner (which I recommend if you haven't read it, it is very short) changed venue from Finland to Germany and back - admittedly not as dramatic a shift as Finland to Kentucky (or vice versa, I should say).

Dorte H sagde ...

Søren: yes, it is a delightful mix of chalk-white snow and pitch-black crime :D

Barbara: yuk; Denmark is cold and dark enough for me any time! Thank you for your correction. I don´t know how, but I happened to make 3-4 errors when I pre-scheduled this post.

Maxine: I am glad I can also tempt you. I will find a jiffy bag one of these days.

And with regard to geography I find it easier to understand a blogger who moved from Europe to California. He was a late riser, and he loved getting up at six in the morning, FEELING it was midday.

Beth F sagde ...

This sounds really, really good. A totally new author for me. Now I'll be adding to my wish list for March.

Dorte H sagde ...

Beth: it is a bit dark, but of really good quality, and I think you´ll enjoy the environment very much.