This week I'm reviewing the four nominees for the Crime Writers Association's Gold Dagger Award, which will be announced on Oct. 7. First up is a book that is also nominated for the Man Booker Prize, the UK's award for the best novel of the year. That award will be announced on Oct. 18.
And don't think I've forgotten the food...a suggested recipe for Snowdrops is listed below.
We all have times in our lives when we convince ourselves that things are exactly as they appear, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. When Nick Platt meets two gorgeous young women in the Moscow metro, he finds himself in just that situation.
A British lawyer trying to untangle the strange Russian mix of corporate law and disorder, Nick is drawn into the lives of the two sisters. Masha and Katya are vulnerable, lovely, and almost naive...or so they seem. Nick begins to fall hard for Masha and believes that she loves him, too. So when she asks him for a small favor he is quick to oblige.
The true key to this novel (and it's best quality as well) is the evocative description of modern-day Moscow, bringing the city to life on the page. The winter snows deepen the mystery, blanketing the city in velvety pure white, hiding the ugliness of Russian life while covering a few truths. Miller does such a good job of describing the bitter cold of a Moscow winter that I felt the same shiver up the spine that I get when I watch Dr. Zhivago.
As spring approaches, the snows melt and many things are revealed, giving Nick a jolt of reality he doesn't necessarily want. Moscow and the girls begin to give up their secrets, some of which are the "snowdrops" from the title. That's the Russian term for bodies that are uncovered in the spring melt every year.
My only quibble with this book is that I don't like the trick of having the narrator speak to a supposed fiancee. It's distracting and the only false note in Snowdrops. (2011 - Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group)
Hot Spiced Wine
There are a lot of variations on mulled wine recipes. I received this one years ago from my aunt, and modified it to fit my taste. It is perfect for sipping while reading Snowdrops. When I say this book really captures the feeling of a Moscow winter, I'm not kidding.
2 bottles of red wine
2 cups orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
5 whole allspice
3/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
Combine all in a pot. Bring to a boil and then lower to simmer. Strain to serve.