Shortlisted in the 2011 Booker Prize and the CWG Gold Dagger 2011, A.D. Miller‘s Snowdrops got very close to pulling off a couple of awards when it was first released and it’s easy to see why when you start to turn the pages of the dark drama. It’s quietly gripping as it seeps under your skin the more you read, but it also skates close to painting a sweepingly dark brush on the character of the Russian people, which is sort of to its detriment as it misses a little of the light and shade of reality.
It centres on the vaguely questionable character of “lost-man” lawyer, Nick, as he gets tangled up with a couple of Russian girls in Moscow, where he has been living and working for a number of years. He finds himself giving everything for the adventure of the moments without caring for consequences or mistreatment of society.
It starts out with the story behind the name of the book, the sinister appearance of bodies laid cold under the snow during the onset of winter, where they remain until the summer thaw, appearing with the ripe smell of decomposition. Some of these are the result of the homeless laying down in the snow, but the majority are as a result of corruption and murder, which sets the tone for the book and A.D. Miller’s portrayal of Russia.
Though few of the characters are likeable in any real way, including the focal point of Nick, it’s still a book that draws you under with a firm grip into the dark underbelly beneath the blanket of white of Moscow’s winter. It builds intrigue slowly but relentlessly, making the it an easy read, despite the abundance of deeper themes, including shame, exploitation, corruption, moral boundaries and a very thin layer of decency.
However, in general, the book doesn’t really say much on the positive side about Russia or the people there, despite Nick’s twisted love of it, which are for all the wrong reasons. It makes it a bit too one sided, like there’s pages missing on the good, safe and happy people that live in Russia. Having known a few Russian’s we can safely say that they have all been lovely, but the book seems to imply that the only lovely Russian’s are just fodder for the taking. There’s obviously a lot of corruption in Russia, as with a lot of places throughout the world, but to take that as the defining nature would surely be a little remiss, which is what the book feels like in this respect.
A.D. Miller’s Snowdrops is a great low-key thriller, underlaid with subtle suspense and the scorching heat of the Russian winter. While the confession slant of the book doesn’t necessarily work as well as the main plot, the fascinating characters, pseudo-insight into a distant and alien environment and the clever escalation of the storyline makes Snowdrops such a good read.
A.D. Miller, Snowdrops review: 3.8/5