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  • Writer's pictureMandy McHugh

Snow, John Banville: A Review

Thank you to Harlequin and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.

I'm one of those people who get excited to make connections between things. Movies and books, history and places, Easter eggs are my jam. So I'll be honest when I say that part of the reason I requested this one was because I love Irish literature. I took a few courses in college, visited Dublin a decade ago and can't wait to return, and since Peaky Blinders, I've been much more interested in the history and conflict in Northern Ireland and Repub of Ireland. Give me a murder mystery on top of that, and I'm all ears. Detective Inspector St. John Strafford is called in from Dublin to investigate the untimely death of a beloved priest at the home of an aristocratic family in Co. Wexler. The death is more sinister than he thought, and what follows is a classic murder mystery, pitting Strafford against the town as at every turn, it seems someone is invested in derailing his investigation. Indeed, the most accurate summation could be attributed to Strafford himself: either no one's guilty, or everyone is. With its motley crew of characters with quirky habits and mannerisms, Snow read as a satirical ode to Sherlock Holmes. There's humor, but it's a dry humor, such as the running correction of how to pronounce the Inspector's name or the morbid exchange with Lettie about murder suspects. Strafford himself is not a man of words, stumbling over similes and misquoting works of literature. I liked that about him, as well as his odd little ticks. The Second Mrs. Osborne tries on personalities like she tries on clothes (one minute aloof and flighty, the next begging for a cigarette) and I appreciated the nuanced characterization. However, I didn't love the book as a whole. There was an Oscar Wilde feel, which was nice, and Banville's writing is witty. The murder itself was predictable and while I laughed at the dialogue and miscommunications, for lack of a better word, I was neither surprised nor disliked the unraveling of events. Structurally, too, I felt some sections were incredibly dense, with one paragraph oftentimes spanning several pages without breath or pause. Overall, Snow is an interesting lineup of characters with a predictable murder mystery and speckles of dry humor. This could definitely be the type of book I'd recommend for fans of Wilde or Sherlock Holmes, but the dense prose and predictability left me wanting more.


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