Many years ago, probably around the date that it was first published, my father brought me this book. He didn’t often buy me books (people don’t because I have read so many) and it wasn’t for a birthday or similar celebration. I remember enjoying it at the time but my original copy has long ago made its way to the charity shop for someone else to appreciate. When I was which planning books to read for my 60 Books from 60 Years challenge I thought that I would reread it.
Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg and translated by Felicity David was the first of the books we now regard as ScandiCrime that I read – crime and suspense novels from Scandinavian countries translated into English. It is set in Denmark and in Greenland and the history of the two places is important to the plot as well as their climate.
Smilla is a woman who was born and partially brought up in Greenland with indigenous people. When her mother died she was brought to Denmark by her father and she greatly resents him for this and his remarriage. She has made a career as a guide in Greenland and an expert on its climate but she has also been a political activist and now finds herself without work. She lives in a block of flats inhabited by people removed from Greenland and has struck up a friendship with a neglected boy. When his body is found she can read from the marks in the snow the fact that he has been driven to his death and she determines to find out why this has happened.
Smilla’s investigation regularly puts her in danger but she seems driven and unable to stop. Along the way she enlists the aid of other outsiders and she eventually has to face down some very powerful people. Some of those who help her cannot be trusted, occasionally she makes mistakes and not everything she does is lawful. There will be other deaths. Smilla seems without fear but often she just doesn’t care what happens to her which can make her take huge risks.
This book is a murder mystery with a solution which is slightly too farfetched to be completely satisfying in my opinion. The investigation, however, is fascinating and the author introduces the reader to some of the political history of Denmark and its treatment of Greenland and its inhabitants, most of which I didn’t know. The technical information about how snow and ice behave in different circumstances is interesting and nicely integrated into the plot.
This is a good, stand alone, crime novel which I enjoyed all over again. Apparently there is a film but (as usual) I haven’t seen it.