5 August 2016

As White as Snow

Image from www.hotkeybooks.com
Salla Simukka (trans Owen F Witesman)
Hot Key Books, 5 March 2015
PB, 214pp
Source: Advance copy kindly provided by Hot Key

Snow White Week, part 2

I reviewed the first part of Salla Simukka's Snow White trilogy, As Red as Blood, here yesterday.

Now for part 2, As White as Snow 

Once upon a time, there was a woman with a secret...

Like As Red as Blood, this book features the sparky but haunted Lumikki Andersson. In the previous book Lumikki was drawn into a conflict over drug money, which put her life in danger. Now she's sworn to stay out of anyone else's business and decamped to Prague for a bit of me-time (though using the money she kept back from the stash in her previous escapade).

Sometimes, though, trouble follows you where you least expect it.

Approached by another young woman who believes they are sisters, Lumikki is forced to confront some issues her family never discusses - as well as new dangers.

This is another cracking story by Salla Simuka. Like the earlier book, there is something of a fairytale setting, with allusions to Snow White, a sinister shadow puppet show and, of course, the architecture of Prague itself. More fundamentally, there are questions of identity, of sisterhood and of self reflection (a couple of key scenes involve the two women and mirrors). The mystery which was hinted at in As Red as Blood returns here - there is definitely something off about the Andersson family, and Limukka is beginning to remember things but nothing makes any sense. Has her father been lying to her all these years? Does her mother know? We also learn about Lumikki's own more recent history, her passionate liaison with the enigmatic Blaze, for whom she still yearns.

The atmosphere of the books continues to intrigue me - I'm not sure whether it's despite their relative shortness or because of it that Simukka is able to convey so many overtones, but alongside the fairytale trappings I began to see something of the noir abut Lumikki - a woman with strained and broken relationships walking, like it or no, on the dark side of the street but herself a person with a moral centre, incorruptible, taking fearful risks for an innocent(?) who has asked for help. It's easy to fall for Lumikki!

She certainly needs all her moral centre here, as she becomes embroiled in a plot which involves not only the mysterious Lenka but also a sinister religious cult and a journalist on the make. It's a slightly less complicated plot than in As Red as Blood allowing more time to reflect on Lumikki's own circumstances but the peril is as real and the lessons she has learned from fighting back after years of being bullied are as useful here as in her earlier adventure.

My admiration for Simukka only grew after reading this book. She has added new layers of complicity to Lumikki while producing a taut, gripping thriller that grabbed me right to the end and left me wanting more. There's no Happy Ever After yet, so I want to know how the fairytale ends and I'll be moving straight onto As Black as Ebony - which I'll review tomorrow.

For more about the books, see here. To buy As White as Snow, go to your local bookshop, or herehere or here.

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