UNDER THE SNOW by Kerstin Ekman


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 Another engrossing literary thriller from the eminent Swedish novelist whose books in English translation (Witches' Rings, p. 1549, etc.) seem to be the most warmly welcomed Scandinavian fiction since Peter Heg's Smilla's Sense of Snow. Like that international success, this eerie novel takes place in a frozen wasteland: the remote northern village of Rakisjokk, near the Finnish border (``You might say,'' grumbles one character, ``this is where the world comes to an end''). A young artist named Matti Olsson has died there, frozen to death in the snow after a drunken row at, of all things, a mah-jongg party. Following an initial investigation that accepted Rakisjokk's communal declaration of accidental death, Constable Torsson from nearby Orjas is persuaded by David Malm, Matti's old friend and fellow painter, to return to this taciturn wilderness and follow up a teasing new piece of evidence. What they gradually learn--in a neatly constructed narrative that Ekman cleverly distributes among the viewpoints of several variously involved characters--is that Matti may or may not (as alleged) have attempted to destroy his own canvasses, that the beautiful English teacher Anna Ryd had good reason to dispose of that bag containing a coil of rope with human hair clinging to it, and that Matti's death may be connected to the earlier disappearance of a younger woman with whom he was possibly involved. Constable Torsson, an overweight, wheezing, complaining delight of a character, puts it all together impressively--even when his interrogations are complicated by the mysterious shooting of two reindeer, a missing mah-jongg tile, a constantly barking elkhound, and the revelation that just outside Rakisjokk there exists a former passesadie (``place of sacrifice''). Most impressive of all is Ekman's dazzling surprise ending, in which the murderer's detailed confession, told in the first person, immediately precedes the disclosure of that character's identity in the brilliant concluding pages. Irresistible: Save this one for a wintry night by the fireside.

Pub Date: Jan. 5th, 1998
ISBN: 0-385-48866-1
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1997


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