In Cold Blood: CultureCritic Guest Guide to Wintry Crime Fiction

The good people over at CultureCritic recently invited me to contribute a piece to their fabulous blog. The result is a guest guide to ‘wintry’ crime and the role of chilly settings in five of my favourite novels.

  • Jan Costin Wagner, The Winter of the Lions (German author; Finnish setting; 2011)
  • Leif G. W. Persson, Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End (Swedish author; Swedish setting; 2010)
  • A.D. Miller, Snowdrops (British author / Russian setting / 2011)
  • Julia Keller, A Killing in the Hills (US author / Appalachian mountain setting / 2012)
  • MJ McGrath, White Heat (UK author; Arctic Circle setting; 2011)

Many thanks to CultureCritic for the invitation; it was fun to do!

If you’re not yet familiar with the CultureCritic blog, do pop over: you’ll find all the latest on film, music, books, exhibitions, theatre, opera, dance and more…. It’s a regular smörgåsbord of cultural delights.

11 thoughts on “In Cold Blood: CultureCritic Guest Guide to Wintry Crime Fiction

  1. Mrs. P.: You picked 5 wintery mysteries that I have not read. I need not look for winter mysteries. All I have to do is go outside. The high today in my part of Saskatchewan was -16. By setting lots of Canadian mysteries involve winter. I do have a hard time with authors and characters complaining how cold it is when the temperature drops below freezing.

    • That’s a very fair point, Bill. If I lived in Saskatchewan I would probably be looking for mysteries set in the Caribbean. On the other hand, you’d be one of the best-placed readers to judge whether writers convincingly depict life in a cold climate. It’s quite a feat when an author such as M.J. McGrath (White Heat), who is British, pulls off a High Arctic setting so far away from ‘home’.

      Hope you stay nice and warm! It’s just raining a lot here, which is frankly dull.

  2. Ta for bringing the Jan Wagner series to my attention, have just ordered the ‘Lion’ book from Amazon. Glad you enjoyed Snow Drops I bought the book & listened to the BBC 4 dramatisation of it. Be interesting to see what he does next. Will have to check out MJ McGarth. Think I’ll re-read the Persson book again in January, not knowing when the concluding book will be published, Guessing 2014, it’s a long time to wait!

    • You’re welcome! The first two books in Costin Wagner’s Joentaa series give you the backstory of the detective (particularly the impact of his wife’s death), but I think diving in with the third would work OK. I’d recommend the other two as well, though (Ice Moon and Silence).

      I didn’t realise that Snowdrops had been dramatised by Radio 4. I can imagine that would have worked extremely well (unfortunately no longer available…).

  3. Nice work, Mrs P. I like the sound of Snow Drops, and I’ve alerted a fan of ‘hillbilly noir’ to A Killing in the Hills.

    When I think of wintry crime fiction, I think of Gorky Park and the fact (perhaps urban myth?) that Martin Cruz Smith managed to write such an evocative novel without having visited the Soviet Union.

    With the mercury hitting 40 degrees celsius (104 F) at home here in Melbourne today, I might well escape into a cold climate novel…

  4. Thanks, Angela. I never knew there was such a thing as ‘hillbilly noir’, but will keep a look out for it from now on 🙂 Thanks for passing the recommendation along.

    I’m getting ever more intrigued by authors who choose to set their novels in far-flung places. Some, like Jan Costin Wagner, have ‘married into’ other cultures and have a lived experience of the places they write about (in this case Finland). But to write a novel somewhere you’ve never been? That takes serious guts. If I were an author I’d be inclined to stick with what I know. But then again, a strong imagination and some serious research can produce incredible results (the same lines of argument could apply to authors setting their novels in the past).

    Sounds like Melbourne is headed for a very hot Christmas indeed. Hope you have a good one, Angela!

  5. Thanks for these great recommendations, have not read any of them – have added them to my ever growing reading list. Particularly like the sound of Snowdrops and A Killing in the Hills.

    • You’re welcome, Blighty – hope you enjoy. I’m never quite sure whether to be pleased or not when I add more to an already towering TBR pile – plenty of good things to choose from at least…

  6. Dear Mrs P, have now read Snowdrops and Killing in the Hills, in manner of over eager accolyte of your blog…I really enjoyed both – I got very involved with Snowdrops and cross with the narrator who I decided was a pathetic man who would do anything for a bit of athletic sex with strict Russian girl; A Killing in the Hills I was slighty disappointed by, as being an insufferable smartass I guessed the killer early on; also it reminded me a bit of The Cutting Season by Attica ForgottenHer Name, with its theme of coming back to where you grew up…

    • Goodness, Blighty, you have been busy 🙂

      I know that there were quite mixed feelings about Snowdrops – some I know didn’t get on with it at all, but I thought the ‘flawed narrator’ was done very well, and believably. A touch of Graham Greene and The Quiet American in terms of foreigners losing their judgement and getting into hot water abroad?

      So would you read a follow up to A Killing in the Hills or did you find it too predictable?

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