Posts Tagged ‘snow’

I like to read and listen to Christmas themed books at this time of year, so I chose to listen to this one while out on my runs during the lead up to Christmas (finished it on Christmas Eve, which was ideal).

It’s one of a series of books about DCI Jack Ryan, but it was the first one I had listened to/read. There are obvious references to previous books, but nothing that made it difficult to understand this one, and you could pretty much enjoy this as a standalone novella.

Ryan and his historian wife Anna, with their friends Frank and Mackenzie, who are also married, are on their way back from a short break when they get stranded by the snow and have to spend the night at England’s apparently most haunted castle, in Northumberland, with a motley crue of staff and other guests.

When a grisly murder occurs, the Ryan and co have to interrupt their holiday to investigate the crime. With everybody being snowed in, and nobody able to enter the premises, it is clear that the murderer is somebody already there, meaning that time is of the essence before another murder occurs.

I definitely enjoyed listening to this book. I enjoy mysteries set in one location with a small cast of characters, as this was. I also liked the DCI Ryan character and his friend Frank. Mackenzie and Anna were good characters, but I suspect I would have liked them more in print, as unfortunately the narrator Jonathan Keeble, while generally good, was TERRIBLE at female voices. The mystery itself was entertaining enough, a touch Agatha Christie-is (no bad thing) and I didn’t guess the ending. All in all, a likeable enough story and I would happily listen to more in this series.

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Set in Alaska in the 1920s, this story (based on an old Russian fairy tale) is about Jack and Mabel, a couple who move to live in a farm in a remote part of Alaska, to escape their pain at not being able to have children.  One night they create the figure of a small girl out of snow, and the next morning the snow child has disappeared, but soon a young girl who looks remarkably like their creation appears in the area where they live and befriends them, so that they become almost like parents to her.

I wanted to like this book.  I really did.  People recommended it to me, and I read reviews of it prior to reading it, all of which praised the book highly.  So maybe it’s me, but…it just didn’t grab me.  The writing was really quite lovely in places, but the whole thing had an air of detachment and isolation to it – I never really felt engaged in the story.  The detachment and isolation perhaps reflects the isolated location where the story takes place (and certainly the author’s descriptions of the snowy, remote and lonely place where Jack and Mabel are evocative and atmospheric), but for me it also had the unfortunate effect of me not really caring about any of the characters one way or the other.

I did prefer the parts with Faina, the young girl who may or may not be real.  However, there was a large part in the middle of the story where she is not present, and I found that that portion dragged.  As descriptive as the passages of Jack and Mabel’s work at their farm were, it seemed all quite repetitive.  The story picked up pace in the last 100 pages or so however, and I liked that part more.

Certainly I can see the value of this story, and the eloquence in the writing, and it is understandable that so many readers seem genuinely touched by it.  But unfortunately, it just wasn’t for this reader.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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