Book Review : Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow - Peter Hoeg 6*
I have mostly really enjoyed Hoeg's creation Smilla Jasperson, the slow paced plot and the cultural meditations supplied by the character. I have also mostly been told by people who have read this novel just how utterly wonderful both it and the central character are, but I can only agree up to a point.
The plot unfolds unevenly, as real life does, sometimes the determined amateur sleuth makes headway, sometimes she is headed off. The mystery at the heart of the novel concerns the death of a boy who lives close to Smilla, a boy with a paralysing fear of heights who has apparently fallen from a rooftop while playing. Smilla, troubled by her young friend's death, sets out to get to the core of the mystery.
So far so good then, we have a nice detective story, a quirky, odd heroine akin to Lisbeth Salander and a plot that although it constantly unravels, does not let you see too far around the corner. Some of the story seems ever so slightly far fetched, as when Smilla signs on a ship as an unwanted and superfluous waitress. I did enjoy some of the tension provided by the contained universe of the ice breaking ship, but then something really strange happens.
Michael Crichton drops in and writes the last chapter, and the plot which has so far been fairly tense and gripping suddenly dissolves under the strain of having the quirky, offbeat detective genre suddenly morph into a bio-warfare sci-fi plot. The last few pages were frankly unbelievable and made a mockery of the preceding 400. This is a shame, as Miss Smilla has many good elements, Smilla herself is a fine creation, cynical, intelligent, not quite world weary and Hoeg sense of timing as he reveals some plot elements is masterful. The last chapter though is a juxtaposition too far, it is jarring and shocks the reader out of the imagined world of the story.