July 2016

The Ice Princess, by Camilla Läckberg >>
Smilla’s Sense of Snow, by Peter Høeg >>

The Ice Princess: 11 thumbs up!

First things first—our group has coined a new term. We are dubbing The Ice Princess a “Scandinavian cozy.” The Ice Princess contains many features of a traditional cozy (amateur detective paired with a police officer, romance, domestic scenes featuring a community of friends and family, small town setting, some humor) yet balances the typically light read with the dark grimness of a Scandinavian winter.

This is one of the few novels we’ve read this year that received thumbs up from all. Ok, yes-one thumbs up was a tentative thumbs up, but only because there has been a plethora of mysteries involving child abuse and this exasperated reader said, “enough!” Overall, The Ice Princess was thoroughly enjoyed.

Each month our group tries to remember to comment not only on the writing as we would for any book, but the crafting of the mystery as well. This particular book is one of the best this year when it comes to plotting and keeping the reader guessing. However, one criticism was the use of divulging that there was a clue discovered by either Patrick or Erika, but not revealing to the reader what was the clue. For those of us raised on the Golden Age of Mystery and the concept of fair play in mystery plots, this was a weakness. However, the use of multiple plot lines, past and present colliding, and the “evil is everywhere under the pretty surface” theme kept The Ice Princess in the company of traditional mysteries.

Also mentioned were the strong sense of place, the use of humor, the strong evocation of tragedy, and the realistic descriptions of domestic abuse. A few readers commented about the translation being a bit awkward in places, but that somehow this added to the charm. It read like the equivalent of hearing an accent. Finally, the coda at the end beautifully brought Arthur’s longings to fruition.

Smilia’s Sense of Snow received 5 thumbs up, 1 thumb down, and 2 thumbs in the middle.

Most of the group felt this novel long and unnecessarily complicated. “I slogged my way through it,” was a repeated comment and readers also described it as tedious with too many dense descriptions of minutia.

The one reader who enjoyed it talked about the scenery being weird and dreamlike and so absorbing that the reader forgets where she is going and gets lost along the way. Other readers described Smilia’s Sense of Snow as akin to reading a scientific journal. Some talked about the mystery being so-so, others talked about the real mystery being what the mystery was in the first place. One of the few positive comments was in reference to the way the split between cultures was portrayed. The cultural extremes and how they manifest in the characters was interesting.