Snow Angels


Kaamos: Just before Christmas, the bleakest time of the year in Lapland. The unrelenting darkness and extreme cold above the Arctic Circle drive everyone just a little insane . . . perhaps enough to kill.

A beautiful Somali immigrant is found dead in a snowfield, her body gruesomely mutilated, a racial slur carved into her chest. Heading the murder investigation is Inspector Kari Vaara, the lead detective of the small-town police force. Once a big-city “hero cop,” Vaara has retreated to his old hometown to nurse unhealed wounds. Now he has put himself under intense pressure to solve the case without asking for outside help. The vicious killing may have been a hate crime, a sex crime—or one and the same. Vaara knows he must keep this potentially explosive case out of the national headlines, or it will send shock waves across Finland, an insular nation afraid to face its own xenophobia.

The demands of the investigation begin to take their toll on Vaara and his marriage. His young American wife, Kate, newly pregnant with their first child, is struggling to adapt to both the unforgiving Arctic climate and the Finnish culture of silence and isolation. Meanwhile Vaara himself, haunted by his rough childhood and failed first marriage, discovers that the past keeps biting at his heels: he suspects that the rich man for whom his ex-wife left him years ago may be the killer.

Snow Angels is the chilling and resonant debut from James Thompson, a talented new voice in crime thrillers.


“. . .Snow Angels is memorable as much for the reverse expatriate subplot as it is for the wonderfully lurid quality of both the prose and revelations behind the initial and later murders . . . it's the mix of both that provides the necessary ingredients for this stark page-turner.”
Los Angeles Times “Dark Passages” Blog; February 7, 2010 Read

The bitter cold and seasonal darkness of a Finnish winter provide the haunting atmospherics for this latest entry in the popular Nordic noir genre. Here's the twist: Author James Thompson is an American expat who has lived in Finland for the past decade. He effectively captures the genre's signature elements as he lays out Inspector Kari Vaara's search for the killer of a Somali celebrity found horribly mutilated in a snowy field. The case puts a strain on his relationship with his pregnant new wife, his odd parents, who blame him for the death of his sister, and his repulsive ex-wife and her bizarre husband, who keep popping up during the investigation. Don't miss this one.”
—USA Today; February 18, 2010 Read

“James Thompson's Snow Angels has the bracingly clean prose you'd expect from a book set above the Arctic Circle . . . Thompson,  an American who has lived in Finland for years, writes vividly of a place he clearly knows and loves.”
—Seattle Times; January 10, 2010 Read

“. . . worth a pounce, especially the stark vignettes of daily life in near or total darkness. The American-born author, who lives in Finland, doesn’t flinch from portraying his characters in various stages of drunkenness, truculence and madness, and some of these portraits are hard to take — harder, even, to shake.”
New York Times Book Review; January 24, 2010

"A major new talent". If you like Scandinavian mysteries (Henning Mankell, Arnaldur Indridason, et al.) and the first-person narratives of American detective fiction, Snow Angels should be right up your alley. Thompson is hard at work on the sequel, and I will be among the first in line to read it."
—BookPage Read


"The laconic voice of inspector Kari Vaara is at the same time dangerous and human, his world cold, barren, yet intriguingly exotic, his story fast, brutal, yet told with a sort of laid-back calm."
—Peter Hoeg, author of Smilla's Sense of Snow

"This book is wonderful. It took me right in, dropped me into a strange new world, and kept me captivated from first to last page. James Thompson has done a masterful job with Snow Angels!"
—Michael Connelly

Snow Angels is a raw-edged noir thriller. Thompson keeps it foreign and darkly exotic, yet his protagonist, reminiscent of Spade, Marlowe, Hammer, and Archer, is warmly recognizable. A classic American feel in the Arctic Circle—an incredible feat.”
—Lou Manfredo, author of Rizzo’s War

A comprehensive list of reviews and interviews concerning Snow Angels. They’re organized by type and something resembling chronological order.

In English

 Print Reviews:

Chicago Tribune
Library Journal Book Cheer
Seattle Times
Portsmouth Herald
New York Times Book Review
Boston Herald
Los Angeles Times
The Globe and Mail 
Kansas City: KCOndemand
Helsinki University: Hub
The Calgary Herald

Internet-based reviews and interviews

Booklist Online: The Year’s Best Crime Novels
Luxury Reading
Jen's Book Thoughts:Shedding Some Light on Jim Thompson
Euro Crime

Novel Whore
A Bookworm’s World
Do Some Damage
The Free Library
You Say Too: an interview with Jim Thompson
Kittling: Books
Thoughts of Joy
Somebody Dies
Material Witness
An Adventure in Reading
Pop Syndicate
Book Magic
The Week’s Most Talked About Books
Reviewing the Evidence
DJS Krimiblog
International Noir Fiction
The Mystery Reader
Boise Public Library
The Game’s Afoot
Spinetingler Magazine
The Morning News
Scene of the Crime
Mostly Fiction Book Reviews
The Page 69 Test
Finland Forums
amazon customer reviews (39)
Library Thing (42 reader reviews)
Nordic Bookblog
Murder is Everywhere
Murder by Type
Lucifer’s Tears (the sequel to Snow Angels) Putnam Winter Catalogue p.32


News and reviews from non-English speaking countries 


Le Point

France 24

Ouest France"i-La-nuit-glaciale-du-Kaamos-i-James-Thompson_43624-1206797_actu.Htm

- Libération : January 14th 2010, Gérard Thomas published an article and gives a full description of the book , “Kari Vaara dives into a universe tapped by the racism and the intolerance

Direct Soir : November 11th «  The opportunity to shiver but also to discover a country through the glance of the author who lives there”

- Le Point :

- Le Magazine littéraire : February 2010  “James Thompson remains a typically American author and prints in this pounding thriller a muscular tempo”

Télé 2 semaines : On december 28th dscribes a « striking book »

- Marie Claire : March 2010-  “The engine of the suspense turns at top speed

-Marianne : February 13 th “It is alarming as a day which does not come”

-France24 TV :


-Midi Libre : December 28th « Ideal for the new icy year

-Est Republicain : January 3rd “A thriller seizing to read to the warmth

- Biblioteca : November 2009 gives a complete description of the book

- Service Littéraire : December 2009 “One of the bests thrillers of this winter”

Germany: EIS ENGEL. Rowohlt


FInland: Lumienkelit. Johnny Kniga/WSOY

Snow Angels was published in Finland over a year ago, and you can find many reviews about it in Finnish, on my Finnish web site.