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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Snow Angels by James Thompson

Thompson, James.  Snow Angels.

This first in a new series made me uncomfortable.  Not in a positive way.  You know the feeling of being uncomfortable because you are learning something new and the knowledge is making you re-evaluate your own thinking?  It isn't that kind of uncomfortable.

No, this novel made me uncomfortable because of the sex and violence, the alcoholism, the feeling of hopelessness.  I felt like a voyeur, and I felt sad for an entire culture.  Which is wrong.  Evaluating the cultures of Finland based on this novel would not be  reasonable.  Yet reason and emotion will separate at times, and my thoughts will remain tainted by the view presented in this novel.

The setting is a small town just above the Arctic Circle, in the middle of the long Arctic night.  There is no doubt that long months without sun combined with temperatures that can fall to 40 degrees below zero are emotionally difficult; plenty of statistic back up the fact that populations that live in these conditions have higher incidences of alcoholism, depression, and suicide.

But Jeez...does every character have to have one or more of these symptoms.  Even the protagonist, Inspector Vaara, has so many problems and such a difficult background that it is a wonder he can keep going.

The book has a definite crime noir flavor, but the graphic violence, callous sexuality, and overwhelming sense of despair (admittedly, this is probably not the exactly the author's intent) does not encourage me to follow Inspector Vaara in the future.

And I figured out the culprit pretty early, although I did question myself as new red herrings presented themselves...

Fiction.  Crime/Mystery.  2009.  264 pages.


  1. I've heard mixed reactions to this one. Some, like yours, were not fans of the darkness of the story. Others seemed to feel it was justified. I've got a copy but have not been inclined to pick it up yet. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I started this book but I returned it to the library. I was a little put off by the graphic way the victim was murdered and how it was described, but I might still go back and read it (it was partially a matter of it being a library book I had to return by the due date). I know crime books are going to have crime, but how it's represented can make or break a book for me.

  3. Kay--Another example of how differently we can all view the same book. I'm not inclined to try another by the author, but I know a lot of people liked it.

    Danielle -- I found it to be such a depressing look at a culture. I couldn't really get attached to any of the characters...

  4. I wish I could recall where I read about this. Wherever it was, I liked what I read enough to put it in my amazon cart. I just removed it. Your review is exactly what I need to read about a book before I read it. You gave enough details so I could decide for myself without giving away the story. There is such a fine line between okay and not okay. This book clearly crossed that line for me, and for you. Some of the Scandinavian books I've read have had some details that made me squirm a bit, but not like this. I haven't read the Larsson books but my sense is there is a darkness in them where I don't want to let my imagination go.

  5. Nan - It was definitely too dark for me. You are right that a lot of the Scandinavian books have a quality that pushes the edge. I did enjoy the first two Larsson books, but they do push the edge. This novel went beyond that for me.

    I remember reading in my graduate studies that despair, as the antithesis of hope, is a spiritual sickness. While I'm not referring to religion here, it is that sense of despair that bothers me. Maybe not all of the characters felt it, but I did as a reader. I felt a pervasive lack of hope for the characters who peopled the novel.