A stunning literary thriller in the tradition of Gorky Park and the novels of John Le Carre. Smilla Qaaviqaaq Jaspersen is the daughter of a Danish doctor and an Inuit woman from Greenland. Raised in Greenland, she lives in Copenhagen and, as befits her ancestry, is an expert on snow. When one of her few friends, an Inuit boy, dies under mysterious circumstances, she refuses to believe it was an accident. She decides to investigate and discovers that even the police don't want her involved. But Smilla persists, and as snow-covered Copenhagen settles down for a quiet Christmas, Smilla's investigation leads her from a fanatically religious accountant, to a tough-talking pathologist, to the secret files of the Danish company responsible for extracting most of Greenland's mineral wealth. Finally, she boards a ship with an international cast of villains - and a large stash of cocaine - bound for a mysterious mission on an inhospitable island off Greenland.
The title of this quiet, absorbing suspense novel by a Danish author only suggests the intriguing story it tells. After young Isaiah Christiansen falls from a snow-covered roof in present-day Copenhagen, something about his lone rooftop tracks--and the fact that the boy had a fear of heights--obsesses Smilla Qaavigaaq Jaspersen, a woman who had befriended him. Smilla is 37, unmarried, and, like Isaiah, part of Denmark's small Eskimo/Greenlander community. She is also a minor Danish authority on the properties and classification of ice. Her search for what had frightened the boy leads her to uncover information about his father's mysterious death on a secret expedition to Greenland, a mission funded by a powerful Danish corporation involved in a strange conspiracy stretching back to WW II. As related in Smilla's sober, no-nonsense narration, the plot acquires credibility even as its details become more bizarre. While the novel will probably be compared to Gorky Park , Hoeg has much more to offer, both in terms of his impeccable literary style and in the glimpses he provides of an utterly foreign culture. Its chief virtue, however, is the narrator: Smilla is never less than believable in her contradictions--caustic, caring, thoughtful, impulsive, determined and above all, rebellious. Smoothly translated by Nunnally, this is Hoeg's third novel, but the first to appear in English. A dark, taut, compelling story, it's a real find. 40,000 first printing; $50,000 ad/promo; BOMC selection. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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Farrar, Straus and Giroux
September 30, 1995
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