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Snow Angels (Inspector Kari Vaara #1)

3.70  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,109 Ratings  ·  531 Reviews
SNOW ANGELS is a chilling and resonant debut from author James Thompson.

Kaamos: Just before Christmas, the darkest time of the year in Lapland, above the Arctic Circle. The unrelenting darkness and extreme cold cause everyone to go just a little bit insane, whether or not they’ve just killed someone…

A beautiful Somalian refugee-turned-actress is found murdered on a reind
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Hardcover, 264 pages
Published January 7th 2010 by G. P. Putnam's Sons (first published 2010)
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Scandinavian/Nordic Mysteries
55th out of 250 books — 544 voters
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59th out of 143 books — 319 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Lyn
May 21, 2016 Lyn rated it really liked it
Gruesome and grisly hard-boiled Nordic noir police procedural set in Finland’s far north.

Author James Thompson (an American who lived in Finland for many years) adeptly describes a murder investigation in Finnish Lapland, in the country’s far north, which is actually in the Arctic Circle. The period is Kaamos, the dark period just before Christmas when the sun does not rise at all for a couple of weeks. This is traditionally a time of depression and alcoholic extreme as the stoic Finnish people
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Ed
Apr 09, 2011 Ed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: police procedural and local color fans
James M. Thompson, an American author, is married to a Finnish lady, and they live in Finland, and so quite fittingly, he sets his gritty police procedural there. My wife is of Finnish extraction (in fact, a minor character in the novel shares her surname). Therefore I wanted to read Snow Angels. I've also exchanged several emails with Jim and I guest posted once on his weblog, Jimland, so we aren't strangers.

At any rate, I was blown away by how Snow Angels excels on several levels: a sensitive
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Jim Coughenour
Mar 18, 2011 Jim Coughenour rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Filipa
Aug 12, 2012 Filipa rated it it was amazing
Tenso. Inteligente. Hipnotizante. Fantástico. Mistério complexo. Obra magistral. Todas estas palavras que descrevem este livro são mais que merecedoras.

Adorei todos os pedacinhos que fala da cultura e sociedade finlandesas.

A forma como é perpetrado o crime "principal". . .

O outro realizado com um simples pneu e uma lata de gasolina de origem da África do Sul, macabro, mas que também sei que é uma maneira de assassínio no Brasil e por aí. . .

Todo o enredo e a personagem principal, ele próprio
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Dorian
Oct 23, 2011 Dorian rated it did not like it
When I was small, one book made a particular, inordinate impression on me, out of all proportion to its literary merit, so much so that I still have it on my shelves. The book is The Smartest Bear in the World and his Brother Oliver. It's about a bear who schemes to stay up all winter reading every entry in his encyclopedia. Although the book's ostensible lesson is moderation in all things and tolerance for people, like brother Oliver, who don't like to read, the message *I* took from it--the ho ...more
Lou
Nov 17, 2011 Lou rated it really liked it
This story is from the shores of Finland a police procedural. The murder that starts the story is very brutal and the victim is a lady from an ethnic minority, she comes from a people who have lost their homeland to civil war, the author covers well their cultural practices and the religious rights of various parts of their religion. The murder brings out old wounds to the main protagonists life and one main thorn in is side becomes his ex-wife. The main protagonist is a detective married to an ...more
Markus
Jan 18, 2015 Markus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013, crime
Firstly, i have never been a big fan of the crime-thriller genre, but lately for a some reason i've been reading these, part of the blame goes to Lee Child (16 Jack Reacher books under the year). What got my attention was an American writer doing a Finnish crime-thriller book. Yeah, i'm from Finland and i actually live not so far from where this book is set, Kittilä.

I always cringe in movies when a foreign films shows Finland scenes, there is snow, it's cold and a one wooden building. I was surp
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Anna
Aug 06, 2014 Anna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookcrossing, 2011
Stieg Larsson and Henning Mankell got me a while ago back into the never ending international crime, suspense, and thriller binge. And after seeing the selection in my local bookstores, I was amazed how even Icelandic authors are better represented than the Finns. Why? I'm not sure. They can't market their books? That surely, at least partly. Or they write only to people who know how everything works in Finland, where all the small cities are located, and who know what is normal for a Finn behav ...more
Katy
May 02, 2013 Katy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of dark, well-done mysteries, set in Scandinavia, with good characters
Book Info: Genre: Mystery/Noir
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Fans of dark mysteries, stories set in Scandinavia, well-developed characters, well-done mysteries
Trigger Warnings: murder, hate-crime, sexual assault, use of racist and sexist language (n-word, w-word, and c-word), religious zealotry

My Thoughts: This is a very dark story. It seems that most murder mysteries set in Scandinavia are very dark, which is interesting considering how few murders overall are committed there. In fact, lo
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Wanda
I have only been to Finland in the spring, probably when life is at its most cheerful in that country. My friend and I looked around the small town we were staying in and decided that there is a good reason that so many heavy metal bands come from Finland: during the long winters, the parents look at their teenage sons and say, “Right, get yourself out to the garage and do something.”

Thompson has captured the Scandinavian tone very well. Finland has obviously embraced him, identifying him as a
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Jennie
Things I learned about Finland: Apparently it's dark all the time and people are always drunk.

The main character is a typical fictional detective with a whiny pregnant (American) wife who apparently won't learn Finnish and is offended when people won't speak English to her - he loves her more than anything and between her bouts of complaining about being in Finland, we're not really given a reason why. He also has (yawn) a troubled, painful childhood. The mystery itself is pretty convoluted, wi
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Cátia Santos
Nov 30, 2013 Cátia Santos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4,5*! O que se pode dizer de um livro que se lê em algumas horas? Só pode ser muito bom! O protagonista, o inspetor Kari Vaara, surge como uma personagem muito forte e, ao mesmo tempo, mostra toda a sua fragilidade, retrato de tudo o que já viveu. A trama está muito bem urdida e, para além de ser um excelente policial, caracteriza bastante a sociedade finlandesa. Não sei se este livro terá tido muito sucesso lá na Finlândia, já que o autor deixa a imagem de uns finlandeses xenófobos e permanente ...more
Dee
Nov 14, 2010 Dee rated it really liked it
One of my goals over the next year is to extend my reading and try to read books set in various locations around the world, aside from the typical United States, England settings which seem to occur quite often. The book was one that I saw recommended on another reader's list, a murder mystery set in the northern part of Finland.

I was pleasantly surprised by the novel, it was the first that I had read set in this part of the world, tightly written, and I didn't identify the killer until it came
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John Wiltshire
Sep 18, 2015 John Wiltshire rated it it was amazing

I started this book last night and already it's right up there with the best crime novel's I've read. The writing is superb. It's drawn me in and has me totally hooked. The novel is set in Finland, a country I know absolutely nothing about but am enjoying immensely so far. James Thompson does amazing spirit of place and I'm feeling the ice, struggling through the cold and freezing my bits off along with the lead detective Kari, who comes over as an extremely intelligent, engaging cop. Married t
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Teresa
Jul 29, 2012 Teresa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: n-usa
Gostei muito. Está bem escrito, sem “palha” e as personagens (vivas e mortas) e enredo estão bem estruturados. Achei bastante interessante “conviver” um pouco com a sociedade finlandesa.
Neide Parafitas
Jul 24, 2012 Neide Parafitas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: leituras-2012, own
Um livro Muito, muito bom! :)

Um policial violento que irá fazer as delícias dos seus apreciadores!!
Alex
Dec 16, 2011 Alex rated it it was ok
Shelves: kindle, mystery
Considering that this garnered such high praise, I was expecting much, much better. Instead I got some trite nonsense coupled with gratuitous violence. I mean, alright, I did read a crime novel. So I guess the gratuitous violence should've been expected. However, I found it to be a bit ludicrous. The development of the case seemed really odd and unbelievable and jumped a lot of points. The writing lacked subtlety and twists that made it enjoyable.

I also kind of hated that it was written by an Am
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switterbug (Betsey)
Feb 26, 2011 switterbug (Betsey) rated it really liked it
If you are primarily a crime fiction buff who thrives on putting pieces of the puzzle together in a case, then you will not be overly impressed with the outcome of this series debut. If (as I imagine) you have read countless novels on murder cases, you may wince at the immodest and implausible coincidences (even for a small town!) that occur. You will embrace the noir, Arctic atmosphere of Finland during its most glacial and darkest time of year, known as Kaamos, or polar night (as cold as -40 d ...more
Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo
I can see why Snow Angels was short-listed for an Edgar Award and was selected as one of Booklist’s best Crime Novel Debuts! Finnish resident and American, James Thompson’s writing style is lean and sinewy and reflects the “Nordic Noir” atmosphere of the Finnish setting and his characters. I felt the bitter cold and desolation of the kaamos and its effects upon each of characters. The forensics and investigating techniques of Vaara and his small police force are well researched and are strategic ...more
Josh
Aug 21, 2013 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, crime, read_2013
A gruesome crime intertwined with a domestic drama where family members, past, present and departed play pivotal roles. Small town detective Kari Vaara is called out to the scene of murdered high profile Somali immigrant, Sufia Elmi. The crime, akin to the famous Black Dahlia resembles the same forced brutality yet this Finnish crime is no Ellroy noir. No truer to fact or fiction yet small linkages can be drawn.

The body is mutilated, dubbed early on as a sex and hate crime, Vaara is forced to d
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Minty McBunny
Feb 26, 2013 Minty McBunny rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013, february-2013
I was excited to find a Scandinavian crime at my library set in Finland. I have read my way around Norway and Sweden, but hadn't yet read one in Finland and since I have a good friend who lives there, I thought it would be fun to learn more about her culture.

This book is especially interesting as it is by an American author who is married to a Finnish woman and has lived there for a decade. So it was a) written in English and hasn't been translated and b) explains a lot of cultural things that
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Beth
Aug 10, 2010 Beth rated it it was amazing


James Thompson’s SNOW ANGELS is filled with bad language, horrific details about mutilation, brutal murders, characters who are victims of their geography, and a culture about which most of us know very little. There is repeated use of a term that most Americans shun. I started reading and didn’t stop until I finished the book.

I have to clarify that; I did skim the most lurid details but once the book is started, it is impossible to put it down. This is the first in a series of books featuring I
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Richard
Apr 06, 2012 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Masterfully written that captures well this part of Finland, its peoples and the endless darkness.

A horrific murder, a stretched police force and political pressures and place our "hero" Kari Vaara in an increasingly difficult situation. It threatens to undermine his marriage, family and wider friendships as he struggles to make sense of a case that refuses to crack open for him and his team.

The back story is seamlessly woven into the present day and each element is made significant while making
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Suspense Magazine
Oct 12, 2011 Suspense Magazine rated it it was amazing
It is called Kaamos…two weeks of darkness and soul-numbing cold that falls on a Finland area, a hundred miles into the Arctic Circle. Some get through it with vices like cheap Russian alcohol and some sink into deep depression. This year it drove someone crazy enough to commit murder. When the body of a Somali woman is found dead in the snow, it is up to Inspector Kari Vaara to find her killer. This won't be easy in an ugly place where darkness hides secrets and silence is a way of life.

This boo
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Debra
Oct 01, 2011 Debra rated it really liked it
Recommended to Debra by: almeta marrs
BRRRRRRRR it's cold here, and it's only 10/1/11 in Michigan... hahahahaha... I don't know the TRUE meaning of cold. Spend time with your frost-bitten nose bent to reading about murder in the bitterly cold world in this book and you will NEVER (well maybe never) complain about the cold again! GEEEESH!!! How can anyone live like that... below-freezing and night-time all the time... well most of the time?

Oh... huh?... you want to know about the books? Great page-turner of a murder-mystery. Couldn'
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Almeta
Apr 22, 2011 Almeta rated it really liked it
Had I not won a “first reads” book by James Thompson, I might never have discovered him, and now I'm glad I have.

This book is not the one I won, but since I am obsessive about reading books in order, I HAD to read this one first. Next is Lucifer's Tears.

With this twisting mystery, I was not only introduced to a talented author, but to a whole new world and culture(or two), and to a very promising Inspector Vaara series.

Thompson describes so well the depressive sunless cold of Finland during Kaa
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Sónia
Oct 27, 2013 Sónia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books, 2013
Um policial muito bem pensado, com uma escrita simples, límpida, "sem tretas", como se costuma dizer. Este é um livro em que gostei de tudo. Desde a forma da escrita aos relatos sobre a sociedade finlandesa, não esquecendo os dramas humanos subjacentes a cada umas das personagens. Já para não mencionar o lado macabro dos crimes... Direi até que, dentro da sua simplicidade, é uma das obras com melhor enredo que já li.
Rachel (TheShadesofOrange)
4.0 Stars

I really enjoyed reading this gripping, gritty mystery novel set in the dark winter of Finland. The writing was straightforward and easy to follow. The mystery itself was well written with enough twists to create a fast-paced story with plenty of narrative drive. This novel contains some very difficult and disturbing content, which may be triggering to sensitive readers. Thompson does not shy away from the gruesome aspects of murder.

The author is an American born, currently living in Fi
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Jenn
Aug 22, 2016 Jenn rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel which surprised me. I don't normally like anything set in the snow - whether it be kidnappings, murders it chase scenes. But I learned a lot about Finland and the Finnish people. It also had a nice juicy bloody murder or two to keep me happy :)
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
What James Thompson book should I start with? 5 38 Dec 30, 2012 04:36PM  
Scandinavian and ...: James Thompson and Snow Angels 25 60 Aug 10, 2012 01:37AM  
Nordic Noir: Snow Angels - NO SPOILERS 10 57 Oct 28, 2011 08:18PM  
Scandinavian and ...: Welcome James Thompson! 21 60 Sep 27, 2011 09:02AM  
Scandinavian and ...: Snow Angels by James Thompson 82 56 Sep 27, 2011 03:04AM  
Nordic Noir: Snow Angels - SPOILERS 30 59 Sep 22, 2011 12:06PM  
  • The Hand That Trembles (Ann Lindell, #8)
  • Death Angels (Inspector Winter, #1)
  • Night Rounds (Inspector Huss #2)
  • Midvinterblod
  • Last Rituals (Þóra Guðmundsdóttir, #1)
  • Borkmann's Point (Inspector Van Veeteren #2)
  • Where the Shadows Lie (Fire & Ice, #1)
  • Hypothermia (Inspector Erlendur #8)
  • Burned (Henning Juul #1)
  • Cold Comfort (Officer Gunnhilder #2)
  • Evas Öga (Inspector Konrad Sejer #1)
  • Ice Moon
  • Echoes from the Dead (The Öland Quartet, #1)
  • Blind Goddess (Hanne Wilhelmsen #1)
2114
Jim has suddenly passed away on August 1, 2014.

With his first internationally published novel, Snow Angels, James Thompson proved himself Finland’s best and most popular representative in the rise of Nordic noir. It was selected as one of Booklist’ s Best Crime Novel Debuts of the Year and nominated for an Edgar Award, an Anthony Award, and a Strand Critics Award. His novel, Lucifer’s Tears, has r
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More about James Thompson...

Other Books in the Series

Inspector Kari Vaara (5 books)
  • Lucifer's Tears (Inspector Kari Vaara, #2)
  • Helsinki White (Inspector Kari Vaara, #3)
  • Helsinki Blood (Inspector Kari Vaara, #4)
  • Helsinki Dead (Inspector Kari Vaara, #5)

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“Years ago, when I was working on my master's thesis, I went to New York for a semester as an exchange student. What struck me most was the sky. On that side of the world, so far away from the North Pole, the sky is flat and gray, a one-dimensional universe. Here, the sky is arched, and there's almost no pollution. In spring and fall the sky is dark blue or violet, and sunsets last for hours. The sun turns into a dim orange ball that transforms clouds into silver-rimmed red and violet towers. In winter, twenty-four hours a day, uncountable stars outline the vaulted ceiling of the great cathedral we live in. Finnish skies are the reason I believe in God.” 12 likes
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