by James Thompson Book : Fiction  |  1st American ed
"In any man who dies, there dies with him, his first snow..." Yevtushenko   (2009-12-20)
This dark novel by James Thompson introduces Finnish Inspector Vaara. He is called by his assistant, Sgt. Valtteri, informing him that black actress, Suffia Elmi's body has been found, murdered. There is evidence that it is a hate crime.
Vaara narrates the story in the hardboiled tradition of Chandler and Hammett. He is analytical and unemotional when dealing with the brutal crimes that make up the story. In this case, he describes the quiet racism of the Hullu Poro area in rural Finland where the nights are so cold that he must bring the battery of his Saab into the house to make sure the car starts in the morning.
He finds that the room where Suffia had been staying was paid for by Seppho Niemi. This presents a complication in that Vaara's former wife, Hila, left him for Seppho thirteen years ago.
This is an intesne and deeply interesting novel about a part of the world so different from what we are accostomed to. With the story taking place as Christmas approaches, the frigid weather is as much a character as any of the two legged ones. It is the time of darkness in Finland and this adds to the depression of many people leading to alcoholism in many instances. In addition, when viewing the community's struggle in the winter, it is compelling to view what is necessary for some people to survive while others succumb.
The novel was well written with an original plot. There were numerous coincidences which made it seem like most of Vaara's community was involved in the deaths in some manner. Vaara is an appealing character with his love of his current wife and joy of their expected twins. He is also dedicated to his job and has overcome a family tragedy when just a boy.
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