A list of snowy mysteries to help you enjoy the winter….
First up, of course, Jo Nesbo’s creepy The Snowman (2010), finds Inspector Harry Hole chasing down someone who buries bodies inside snowmen. You may never, ever look at a snowman the same way again. Ignore the bad movie – pick up this great read and be completely immersed.
Camilla Lackburg’s The Ice Princess (2008) finds writer Erica returning to her tiny Swedish hometown when a friend is found dead and frozen in his bathtub, wrists slashed. To process what has happened, she begins a memoir, and finds herself solving a crime. Atmospheric, full of well drawn characters, and yes, creepy as all heck.
Snowblind (2015), Icelandic author Ragnor Jonasson’s first entry in his series about Detective Ari Thor. Ari must suffer through a long, claustrophic Icelandic winter in his first posting in Northern Iceland, which, as it happens, is full of corpses. Jonasson combines a traditional whodunnit format with modern psychological creepiness, and keeps it short. This is a wonderful debut to a really great series.
The Winter of the Wolf Moon (2000), Steve Hamilton’s stunning sophomore effort, finds reluctant P.I. Alex McKnight dealing with hockey goons, Russians, and a memorable scene in an ice fishing hut. Hamilton’s combination of wit, great plotting and pacing makes this series (and this book) a real standout.
William Kent Krueger’s debut Iron Lake (1998) opens in a snowstorm and finds recently separated Cork O’Connor solving a case that may or may not have something to do with a Windigo, a native American myth, whereby a human becomes one after his or her spirit is corrupted by greed or weakened by extreme conditions, such as hunger and cold. Tight plotting, a well delineated Northern Minnesota setting and wonderful and memorable characters make this one of the greatest debuts in recent(ish) crime fiction.
Emily Littlejohn’s brilliantly plotted A Season to Lie (2017), finds Detective Gemma Monroe discovering a corpse inside – yes – a snowman on the grounds of a private school in her tiny Colorado town. Littlejohn combines excellent police procedural stories with atmosphere, character, and lovely prose to generate haunting and memorable reads. One of my favorite recent reading discoveries.
The brilliant, short lived Jill McGown was always tweaking the genre, and with Murder at the Old Vicarage (1988), the second in her stellar Lloyd and Hill series, she takes on Christie, finding new and creepy life in a snowbound vicarage where an apparent open and shut case takes on complexity and depth. One of the greatest of modern plotters, this police series should be savored and enjoyed by all who revere the British police novel. McGown, as an aside, studied Latin with Colin Dexter.
Lastly, I can’t leave out one of my favorite locked room scenarios in one of my favorite mysteries by the brilliant Christopher Fowler, White Corridor (2007). Peculiar Crime Unit’s Bryant and May are stuck in a snowstorm, in a van, on the way to a convention of psychics, and must solve, remotely, a murder that took place inside a locked autopsy suite. Witty, intelligent, brilliant – these are great books and this book in particular is especially memorable. These books sound fey, but are not, and Fowler is such a master you are in his wonderful hands for a spectacular reading journey.