Tag Archives: Bruce De Silva

Snow Angels final nominee for Best First Novel Edgar

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:

  1. Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto
  2. The Poacher’s Son by Paul Doiron.
  3. Snow Angels by James Thompson
  4. The Serialist by David Gordon
  5. Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva
Friday’s post:  the winners!  Best wishes to all the nominees – this is one award where being a nominee is definitely an honor.

The Poacher’s Son: A worthy opponent!

Wow.  Great new entry into the Literary Lunchbox reviewing/ranking for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar for Best First Novel.

I spent quite a few hours with The Poacher’s Son by Paul Doiron, finding it to be an enjoyable mystery with a credible and engaging premise:  grown-up son of a hard-drinking rural scofflaw (the poacher in question) becomes a game warden as a rejection of all his father stands for.  Basically a wilderness cop, Mike Bowditch hasn’t heard from his father in years when he gets an unexpected phone call.  The next thing you know, Mike’s dad is a fugitive from a double murder charge, and Mike knows in his heart that it can’t be true.   The reader buys in completely to Mike’s perspective and watches with a heavy heart as Mike sacrifices his friendships, his lovelife, and even his career in order to help his dad.

That’s why it’s such a rush when everything clicks into place in the last few chapters of the book.  All is not what it seems, and as the danger ratchets up and the bodies pile up, it becomes apparent that Mike may just have sacrificed all – for nothing.

Pros for The Poacher’s Son:  believable characters, page-turning suspense, killer ending.  Cons:  A couple of the characters are a little thin.

The Poacher’s Son is pretty clearly superior to Rogue Island and The Serialist.  So the question comes down to Galveston or The Poacher’s Son for the top spot so far.  The books have similarities – both are character-driven.  Both turn on new understandings of long-time relationships.  Ultimately, The Poacher’s Son is narrower in scope than Galveston, so it doesn’t quite edge out the front-runner.  Here’s the line up so far:

  1. Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto
  2. The Poacher’s Sonby Paul Doiron.
  3. The Serialist by David Gordon
  4. Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva
Still to come:  Only Snow Angels.  Stay tuned.