James Thompson’s Snow Angels is the final nominee for the MWA Edgar for Best First Novel to be reviewed and ranked… and just in time, because the Edgars Award Ceremony is tonight! Will the winners be on the MWA website tonight or not till tomorrow? Not sure.
I’m surprisingly nervous. After my perfect score last year (getting both Best First Novel and Best Novel right), I’m hoping to recreate the feeling. But if bat 0 instead of 1000: devastation.
But on to Snow Angels. James Thompson is an American married to a Finn… and his protagonist, Kari Vaara, is a Finn married to an American. Kari’s a cop in the Arctic Circle who mostly solves domestic murders. In fact, he says that frequently the murderder confesses right off the bat. An example of this is included in Snow Angels. Alcohol, depression, close quarters and the long, endless night of winter all play a role in a typical Lapland killing.
But Snow Angels doesn’t feature a typical murder… it’s the grotesque and brutal murder of a Somali-born movie star. Black, beautiful, and complicated, Sufia Elmi has moved far beyond her Muslim upbringing to end up butchered in the subzero snow of a reindeer farm. Kari worries that he is not experienced enough to solve this murder, but the reader sees that his true fault is that he is so involved with each and every potential suspect that he lets his personal feelings get in the way of seeing the truth. Kari’s ultimately successful in solving the crime, but not without a lot of additional blood being spilled along the way.
Pros for Snow Angels: The setting is interesting and well-rendered, Kari’s character is well-fleshed-out and his perspective is true and strong, the plot is twisty and the end is surprising. The tie-in to the Black Dahlia murder was also an interest reference and clue. Cons: I found the first-person, present tense a little difficult to get used to and as a reader, I was more detached from the emotional content of the plot than I would have liked.
Overall, Snow Angels was well worth reading (in fact, I’ve already read the second Kari Vaara mystery!), but not engaging enough to take the #1 spot. So, going into tonight’s awards, here’s the Literary Lunchbox lineup:
- Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto
- The Poacher’s Son by Paul Doiron.
- Snow Angels by James Thompson
- The Serialist by David Gordon
- Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva