Tag Archives: James Thompson

Lunchbox offbase on Edgar picks this year

The Mystery Writers of America has announced the Edgar Award winners!  And unlike last year, where my taste totally reflected the taste of the judges… we are not in synch.  In fact, 180 degrees difference.

I picked Tana French’s Faithful Place for Best Novel.  MWA picked Steve Hamilton’s The Lock Artist.   I placed this one… dead last in the running.  Augh.  A revisit of my review reveals that I still agree with my comments.   Hamilton is a great author – I’ve loved his previous series – and The Lock Artist was very creative and a fun read, but I didn’t find it to be my preference.

Similarly, for Best First Novel, my pick was Nic Pizzolatto’s Galveston.  MWA’s choice: Rogue Island by Bruce DeSilva.  Again, this book was at the bottom of my list.  I looked back over my review.  Yep, still agree with it.  The book has sheer verve going for it, but it’s not as edgy as I prefer.

Bottom line:  If you haven’t read all the nominees, do so!  They’re all excellent and well worth your time.  You can’t go wrong with the established authors nominated for Best Novel, including Tana French, Harlen Coben, Tom Franklin, Timothy Hallinan and Laura Lippman.

For the debut novels, you may find that Rogue Island is your favorite, or perhaps the humor and quirky characterizations of David Gordon’s The Serialist will float your boat.  All five nominees are an opportunity to expand your “must read” list.

My final take on being so wrong?  No biggie.  It’s like the Oscars.  “Predict the Oscars” contests reward those critics who are best are predicting what nominees will be selected by the Oscar voters.  I am more like the critics who pen “who should win” columns.  But even with that perspective, this undertaking is all very subjective! Still, it’s terrifically fun, so 2012 will find me doing the same thing.  Maybe I’ll even go to the ceremony!

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.