Snowdrops by A D Miller

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Snowdrops by A D Miller

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: Set in Russia with all its political, social and economic problems. Nick, a British lawyer is going places with his career and is now working in Moscow thoroughly embracing another culture and all it has to offer.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: September 2011
Publisher: Atlantic Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1848874534

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The front cover, a snowy scene with majestic architecture in the background, is arresting and also suggests a thriller-type read. I was keen to find out why the book was called Snowdrops and hoped the author would enlighten me. He did - and it's nothing to do with flowers or gardening. It's rather chilling and altogether more interesting.

Miller has chosen the first person narrative, so the story has immediacy. Told by Nick in his rather faltering but honest style. We're in the middle of a bitterly cold spell on Moscow streets and a body has been discovered. It's been under all that snow for months but now there's a slight thaw, bits of this unfortunate person now poke through the slush: a toe, a piece of leg. Gruesome and sad at the same time. And it's here, early on in the novel, that we learn the explanation of the innocent-sounding title.

Nick is rushing to work at the office. He has a chance encounter en route with two very attractive and young Russian women, barely out of their teens, it would seem. Normally, the rather quiet and introverted Nick would avoid eye contact, keep his head down. But today he didn't. He may just live to regret that. A conversation, albeit a rather stilted one, is soon struck up. His Russian is passable and with the odd hand gestures and nods of the head etc, they get by. Nick is in his thirties, so past the first flush of youth you could say. He's still single and 'wouldn't mind' a girlfriend. That's my interpretation of the rather easy-going Nick. He struck me early on that he's a man with a flexible plan as far as his private life goes, seems happy enough to rumble along. Until now. He's smitten.

Nick is fully aware that Moscow is full of young and beautiful women so why would these two spend time talking with an older man who wears glasses and is nothing to write home about. Nick doesn't care about all that. He wants to see her again (it's the older one who has caught his eye). Her name's Masha. Miller takes his time to build up a picture here. He describes what the women are wearing (totally unsuitable for the weather as you might expect), their hair, their make-up etc. Geeky Nick is absolutely besotted and it hasn't gone unnoticed.

Miller is clever in ramping up the atmospheric tension. We have the odd word or phrase in Russian and the very basic English spoken by the two women is charmingly disarming eg: For how much years you have been in Moscow? I can sense Nick almost dribbling and drooling here with excitement. Sad or what? But all of this drew me effortlessly into the story and I was only on the first chapter. Good start.

The political scene in Russia is evident from the prose. Many people live in fear. So to get by, they put their heads down and get on with their lives. Asking no questions because they know from bitter experience that they'll receive a pack of lies in return. Coupled with this is the hellish (no other word for it really) weather. Miller gives his readers many examples of people living and working in extreme conditions. It takes a lot of effort to deal with the bitterly cold days. Add in the elite groups of individuals who drive around in fast cars, live the high life and can buy all the vodka in Moscow if they wish. It's a pretty heady mix and makes for good reading.

We soon discover that Masha and the other girl (her sister apparently) are on a mission. It involves Nick. Looks as if they won't have to try too hard then. We find out all the intricate details and also obstacles all in good time.

This is a cracking story told in crisp and engaging prose. I thoroughly enjoyed it. A rather classy, atmospheric thriller-type read. Recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might like to try A Storm In The Blood by Jon Stephen Fink.

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Booklists.jpg Snowdrops by A D Miller is in the Man Booker Prize 2011.


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