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Smilla's Sense of Snow    by Peter Hoeg order for
Smilla's Sense of Snow
by Peter Hoeg
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2001 (1993)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Smilla Qaaviqaaq Jaspersen is a complex character. She has strong Inuit roots, having been raised in Greenland, her mother's country. Now she lives in Copenhagen, estranged from her Danish doctor father. Smilla has befriended a small boy who lives in the same building and has stolen into her heart. He has been having mysterious medical treatments for some time. When he accidentally falls off the roof of their appartment building, Smilla is horrified and suspicious ... she has a strong sense of snow and there is something wrong with its patterns on the rooftop.

The story has the Nordic brooding style of Gorky Park, and its heroine has the toughness of her Alaskan counterpart, Stabenow's Kate Shugak. Unlike Shugak, who is comfortable in her home setting, Smilla has been torn away from her roots and hurt by it. As she begins to investigate her small friend's death, she finds that there is no-one she can trust, from the representatives of a large Danish company that has exploited Greenland's mineral wealth to her own father and her new lover. She breaks in to company offices to scan their secret files and discovers shocking facts about the child's medical treatments.

Fleeing from the police, Smilla ends up on board a ship whose dangerous destination is an icebound island off Greenland. There, in a climactic ending, the villains get their due. Smilla's Sense of Snow is a riveting thriller with a strong and driven heroine and a prevailing sense of tragedy. It was made into a movie and the book has been recently re-issued. If you missed it the first time round, read it now.

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