16 Page-Turner Novels Set in Gloriously Cold and Snowy Places

16 Page-Turner Novels Set in Gloriously Cold and Snowy Places

Monday, 2 January, 2023

A fluffy snowy day is a key ingredient to so much winter fun — making snow angels and building snowmen, dashing on a one-horse open sleigh, gliding downhill and through the woods on skis. A dusting of powdered-sugar snow makes even the most mundane scenery seem quite magical indeed.

But a proper blanket of white can also be a harbinger of perilous events to come, especially when the wind howls or you find yourself in an isolated hotel, a snowed-in manor, a war-torn city, an unexplored territory, or a deep, dark forest.

These novels all take advantage of their snowy settings to tell page-turning stories. So cuddle with a nice hot cuppa and enjoy the adventures.


Adventure in Russia

City of Thieves - David Benioff

City of Thieves
> David Benioff

This sweet and suspenseful novel is almost a buddy comedy — except the action takes place during the 872-day siege of Leningrad in 1941. Our intrepid heroes form an unlikely friendship, develop dangerous enemies, argue about life, and get lost in the snow — all while in search of a perfect dozen eggs.

In real life, on September 8, 1941, the German army surrounded Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and cut it off from the rest of Russia. This story picks up a year later, as the city’s resident waste away from nightly bombings and dwindling food supply.

Amid this horror, fate seems to have taken a particular dislike to 17-year-old Lev Beniov. For one thing, he’s Jewish and, times being what they were, that was not a good thing to be. And for another, he’s hungry — starving, in fact. When an unusual event tempts Lev and his childhood friends into looting a corpse — a crime against the State even in wartime — he’s chucked into a jail cell with Kolya, a handsome soldier, just 20 years old and accused of desertion.

The next morning, a Soviet colonel makes the boys an offer they literally cannot refuse: find a dozen eggs. Lev and Kolya, forced into an uneasy partnership, resign themselves to their fate: eggs or death, with the latter the most likely outcome. They scour the city, and then — driven by desperation — sneak through the blockade to continue their quest behind enemy lines. {more}

You have never been so hungry; you have never been so cold. When we slept, if we slept, we dreamed of the feasts we had carelessly eaten seven months earlier — all that buttered bread, the potato dumplings, the sausages — eaten with disregard, swallowing without tasting, leaving great crumbs on our plates, scraps of fat. In June of 1941, before the Germans came, we thought we were poor. But June seemed like paradise by winter. — David Benioff


Ghost Story in the Arctic

Dark Matter - Michelle Paver

Dark Matter
> Michelle Paver

In the vein of tales like The Turn of the Screw and The Tell-Tale Heart, this eerie ghost story turns on an essential question: Is our narrator haunted by a supernatural being, or is he slowly losing his connection to reality?

The story opens in London, January 1937. The threatening fog of World War II hangs over the city. Our hero Jack is 28 years old, poor, lonely, and in desperate need of a major change. When he’s offered a job as a radio operator on an expedition to the Arctic, he says yes. But from the outset, he has some hesitations. The other four members of the team are amateur explorers from posh families. And he is very much not that. Not anymore.

He sets aside his fears and sets sail for adventure. But shortly after the team arrives at their destination for the year, tragedy strikes. One by one, Jack’s companions are forced to leave. And he’s left all alone. In the Arctic. For the winter. The long, dark, frigid, lonely winter.

Taut and atmospheric, this ghost story winds chilly tendrils around your heart and slowly ratchets up the tension until its pitch-perfect ending. {more}

According to the ship’s thermometer, it’s only a couple of degrees below freezing, but it was colder on the ice. My breath rasped in my throat. I felt the skin of my face tighten. And for the first time in my life, I was aware of cold as a menace. A physical threat. The ice was solid beneath my boots – and yet, I thought, a few inches below me, there’s water so cold that if I fell in, I’d be dead within minutes. And the only thing that’s keeping me away from it is… more water. — Michelle Paver


Thriller in Scotland

The Hunting Party - Lucy Foley

The Hunting Party
> Lucy Foley

It’s a tradition: Every December 31, nine thirty-something friends from Oxford travel to an exotic location to ring in the new year together. This time, they’re vacationing at an isolated hunting lodge in Scotland — and their celebration goes horribly, fabulously wrong.

The trip begins, as a thrilling adventure should, on a train from London to Scotland. There’s a decided party atmosphere on board as the old friends drink bubbly and get caught up on each others’ lives. But by the time they reach the snow-bound lodge of Loch Corrin, it’s painfully evident to all of them that something is off among their formerly tight-knit crew. As the year slowly winds down, tensions ratchet up until eventually, one of them is dead — and another one of them did it.

Author Lucy Foley gleefully vamps on the tropes of Golden-Age mysteries — the train, the isolated manor house, the epic snowstorm, the secrets, the muuurrrder — but it’s all got a modern and lethal edge. The characters are gossipy and backstabbing, their friendships are corrupted, and what looks like love is really obsession, habit, and tradition. Plus, there’s a questionable (but distractingly handsome) caretaker, an unpredictable hostess with secrets of her own, and the forbidding landscape of the Scottish highlands. {more}

New Year’s Eve. The loneliest night of the year, even if you’re with people. Even before my life fell apart. — Lucy Foley


Family Story in Newfoundland

The Shipping News - Annie Proulx

The Shipping News
> Annie Proulx

This novel will envelop you in the cold fog and roaring wind of the Newfoundland shore. And you’ll be transported to the (fictional) harbor town of Killick-Claw, where you’ll eat a squid burger and join in the local gossip.

The story, tinged with Canadian magical realism, revolves around a strange hero named Quoyle. He’s a sad, quiet man beat up by life. The book’s first page tells us everything we need to know about him: ‘Here is an account of a few years in the life of Quoyle, born in Brooklyn and raised in a shuffle of dreary upstate towns. Hive-spangled, gut roaring with gas and cramp, he survived childhood; at the state university, hand clapped over his chin, he camouflaged torment with smiles and silence. Stumbled through his twenties and into his thirties learning to separate his feelings from his life, counting on nothing… At thirty-six, bereft, brimming with grief and thwarted love, Quoyle steered away to Newfoundland, the rock that had generated his ancestors, a place he had never been nor thought to go.’

This adult coming-of-age story is flush with stories of heartbreak and resilience, suspense, and adventure. The storms that batter the rocky shore are so powerful, they seem like sentient beings. There are also drownings and drunken brawls and a house dragged across the ice with ropes. There are pirates, a maybe-ghost, and a mysterious death. There’s also a strong sense of community and isolation at precisely the same time.

The Newfoundland described in this compelling tale is a hard land populated with scarred people who have, somehow, found a sense of ease and acceptance. Quoyle is transformed by his experiences there and is also Quoyle to the end — tender and haunted by family trauma. {more}

‘It never leaves you. You never hear the wind after that without you remember that banshee moan, remember the watery mountains, crests torn into foam, the poor ship groaning. Bad enough at any time, but this was the deep of winter and the cold was terrible, the ice formed on rail and rigging until vessels was carrying thousands of pounds of ice. The snow drove so hard it was just a roar of white outside these windows. Couldn’t see the street below. The sides of the houses to the northwest was plastered a foot thick with snow as hard as steel.’ Quoyle’s teacup cooled in his hands. Listening. — Annie Proulx


Fairy Tale in Alaska

The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey

The Snow Child
> Eowyn Ivey

Alaska, 1920 is not a welcoming place. It’s brutally cold and bleak. Beautiful, yes, but challenging and dangerous. But that might make it exactly the right place for Jack and Mabel to strike out for a new life.

Their marriage is crumbling under the strain of despair. Unable to have the child they crave, heartsick, and breaking under the weight of their Pennsylvania farm, they head to a homestead in Alaska, ready for a new life. In a rare moment of playfulness, they build a child of snow in their yard during the season’s first snowfall. The next morning, the snow child is gone. But they catch a fleeting glimpse of a little girl moving amongst the trees.

With a red fox always at her side, the child appears and disappears, beguiling Mabel and Jack, who come to love her as their own daughter. This story was inspired by a Russian folk tale and a touch of magic shimmers over the narrative, as the story of the snow child — otherworldy, elusive — plays out against the perils of survival in Alaska. {more}

As the glow of the cabin windows turned to flickers through the trees and then to black, her eyes adjusted and the starlight alone on the pure white snow was enough to light her way. The cold scorched her cheeks and her lungs, but she was warm in her fox hat and wool. An owl swooped through the spruce boughs, a slow-flying shadow, but she was not frightened. She felt old and strong, like the mountains and the river. She would find her way home. — Eowyn Ivey


Suspense in Pennsylvania

Ways to Hide in Winter - Sarah St.Vincent

Ways to Hide in Winter
> Sarah St.Vincent

In this atmospheric novel, two characters from opposite sounds of the world — both vulnerable and in various degrees of danger — turn to each other out of desperation, loneliness, and a recognition of a like soul. Their uneasy alliance plays out in unexpected ways during a blustery winter in the mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.

Kathleen is 26 and newly widowed. She hides away in a tiny convenience store on the edge of a state park, cooking hamburgers and scooping ice cream for the deer hunters and hikers who pass through. But it’s winter now, and the vacationers are long gone. She revels in her personal exile and the repetition of her routine. Until one day, it’s blown open by the arrival of a stranger. What is a young man from Uzbekistan — with flimsy shoes and empty pockets — doing in this isolated, rural place?

Despite her methodical means of cutting herself from most other humans, Kathleen is intrigued by Daniil. The two of them — introverted, secretive, jumpy — develop a complex and tenuous relationship. As the story progresses, Kathleen’s history is revealed, and her alternating bouts of crippling fear and devil-may-care risk-taking begin to make sense. Daniil slowly reveals that he, too, has been keeping devastating secrets that put them both in danger. Can Kathleen protect him? Can she protect herself?

The propulsive plot and remote setting keep the suspense at a tense hum. But Kathleen and Daniil’s backstories transform this thriller into a nuanced examination of violence, rural America, and the quest for redemption in the wake of tragedy. {more}

There were two lakes in the park, Laurel and Fuller, both of which stood where the quarries had once been. When I was a child, bits of blue and green slag from the old iron smelter had still washed up on the sand that had been trucked in. My brother and I would walk along the shore and collect them, along with pebbles and snail shells and shining fragments of charcoal. Laurel was the shallower of the two and was always crowded in summer—small children with their mothers, Boy Scouts, softball teams, fishermen. Laurel had pavilions and grills, fire pits… Fuller was where, when I was sixteen, I would lie on the sand late at night, long after the park had closed, and look up at the stars in their endless, stoic expanse. — Sarah St.Vincent


Adventure in the Arctic

The Arctic Fury - Greer Macallister

The Arctic Fury
> Greer Macallister

In 1846, Captain John Franklin commanded two ships — the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror — on an expedition to the Arctic to navigate and map the Northwest Passage. Tragically, the ships were stranded in the ice, the men abandoned ship, and none of them was ever heard from again. This thrilling historical novel tells that story from a completely different perspective: a group of adventurous women.

It’s the 1850s, and Lady Jane Franklin, the wife of the missing captain, hires an all-girl crew to find her husband — or to at least find out what happened to him. The leader is Virginia, an experienced California trail guide. She’s made of pretty stern stuff, but she’s reeling from a recent emotional blow. And, when the story opens, she’s on trial, accused of murdering one of the women from her Arctic expedition.

The story alternates between the trial in Boston and events on the Arctic ice, slowly revealing devastating secrets, surprising plot twists, heartbreaking tragedy — and putting us in the company of women who crush society’s expectations of what they can do.

Author Greer Macallister delivers historical fiction that’s taut with suspense and grounded in history with tantalizing answers to the question, ‘What if?’ {more}

Brooks drew a map from a hidden pocket and unrolled it on the table between them. He traced the route with a blunt fingertip as he went, hundreds of impossible miles streaming by in barely a sentence. ‘Train to Buffalo, canoes to Sault Ste. Marie, transport overland to Moose Factory, and a topsail schooner up the west side of Hudson Bay to Repulse Bay, arriving in late July. From there, you’ll make the overland trek to the search area. That’s King William’s Land, specifically Victory Point. That leaves you four months to trek in, search, and trek out before winter.’

‘Easy as falling off a log,’ said Virginia breezily. — Greer Macallister


Caper in Philadelphia

2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas - Marie-Helene Bertino

2 A.M. at The Cat's Pajamas
> Marie-Helene Bertino

Friendship, love, cocktails, and destiny collide at a jazz club called The Cat’s Pajamas. It’s Christmas Eve Eve in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, and anything can happen.

Two days away from being ten, our heroine Madeleine is an ambitious, trash-talking, cigarette-smoking torch singer who’s trapped in the body of a precocious 9-year-old. Her mother has died, and her father is so wrapped up in his own grief, he has nothing left for his daughter.

Madeleine’s mother was a dancer and singer; Madeleine’s inherited ability to sing like an angel, gives Madeleine purpose. She ditches her elementary school classes at Saint Anthony of the Immaculate Heart, then sets out on a mission to find Philadelphia’s legendary jazz club, The Cat’s Pajamas, where she’s determined to make her singing debut.

The sights and streets of Philadelphia leap off the page: Madeleine’s Catholic school, a café on the corner, snow drifting over Rittenhouse Square and Fairmount Park, the pulsing rhythm of jazz inside the club, and the strong sense of community that flourishes in old city neighborhoods. During one magical day and night, truths are revealed, hope is rekindled, and dreams come true. {more}

Madeleine prefers to spend this and every recess alone, singing scales under her breath, walking laps up and down the parking lot. Madeleine has no friends: Not because she contains a tender grace that fifth graders detect and loathe. Not because she has a natural ability that points her starward, though she does. Madeleine has no friends because she is a jerk. — Marie-Helene Bertino


Fairy Tale in Russia

The Bear and the Nightingale - Katherine Arden

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The Bear and the Nightingale
> Katherine Arden

The opening of this novel is very promising for those of us who love fairy tales and folklore: an old woman sits in a kitchen in the wildwoods of Russia, telling children the story of Morozko, the Winter King.

The first section of the book reads like a (delightful, easier to manage) Russian novel. Much is happening, and characters are introduced at a rapid pace — and in the middle of it all is a woman who might be a witch. She is definitely royalty, and her husband is the lord of an immense forest, which brings us to another primary character in this adventure: the woods.

This fairy-tale forest is vast and dark and deep. It gives and takes away. People get lost there and are never seen again.

And at the edge of the forest, a daughter is born to the maybe-witch. Her name is Vasya, and as she takes her first breaths, her mother, the maybe-witch, dies. As Vasya grows, she realizes she can see things that other people can’t. Odd things happen to her. She befriends a possibly untrustworthy tree nymph. She meets the river king.

The second half of the book takes a dark turn toward horror. There are ghosts and vampires and unhappy spirits in the night. And the forest. Always the forest, which is growing increasingly hostile and threatens to wipe out all the eye can see.

Ultimately hopeful and endlessly engaging — and a great read for a cold night — this is a story that recognizes we can find a bright warm light when circumstances seem to be at their darkest. {more}

There was a time, not long ago

When flowers grew all year

When days were long

And nights star-strewn

And men lived free from fear — Katherine Arden


Murder Mystery in a Hotel

Bellweather Rhapsody - Kate Racculia

Bellweather Rhapsody
> Kate Racculia

If you’ve ever been on a music-related school trip — band camp, anyone? — or joined the musical theater crowd, you will relate to the characters of this surprisingly emotional mystery.

Fifteen years ago, on a November night, a bridesmaid named Minnie Graves witnessed a murder-suicide in room 712 of the Bellweather Hotel. Now the once-elegant hotel is past its prime. In an attempt to banish the demons that have haunted her since that terrible night, Minnie returns to the Bellweather.

But fate isn’t finished with her yet. On the day she returns to the hotel, it’s assaulted on two fronts: by a deadly blizzard and by hundreds of high school students at a statewide music festival.

This book is kind of kooky — in a charming, page-turning way. It delivers unexpected depths of emotion as author Kate Racculia twists the beloved tropes of locked room mysteries, musical theater, and horror films to her whims. {more}

The point is that it might open a part of you that’s always been closed. The point is you might make yourself heard. You might find you have a beautiful and terrible - you have a power… We make music to find each other in the dark. And I have to believe the point is that we don’t ever stop calling out. — Kate Racculia


Apocalyptic Tale in the Arctic

Good Morning, Midnight - Lily Brooks-Dalton

Good Morning, Midnight
> Lily Brooks-Dalton

Beautifully written and suspenseful, this apocalyptic novel focuses not on the tragedy itself but, instead, on the lives that led up to it and what might happen next.

When the story opens, we’re introduced to Augie. He’s 78 years old and is, objectively speaking, a brilliant astronomer. His expertise has brought him to Barbeau’s Observatory, a research station in the Arctic Circle. When an unspecified catastrophe happens, the base is evacuated, but Augie refuses to leave.

Shortly after everyone else has gone, Augie finds a little girl he assumes has been accidentally left behind in the rush to evacuate. There’s no way to contact anyone, so he reluctantly tends to her needs, and they eventually form a very unusual friendship.

Meanwhile, a spaceship is on its return flight from Jupiter when the crew loses contact with Mission Control on Earth. And this is when we get to know a woman astronaut named Sully.

The chapters alternate between Augie and Sully’s experiences, and eventually, their two plot threads connect, delivering thrilling action and quiet, meaningful moments. {more}

When the sun finally returned to the Arctic Circle and stained the gray sky with blazing streaks of pink, Augustine was outside, waiting. He hadn’t felt natural light on his face in months. The rosy glow spilled over the horizon and seeped into the icy blue of the tundra, casting indigo shadows across the snow. The dawn climbed like a wall of hungry fire, delicate pink deepening to orange, then crimson, consuming the thick layers of cloud one at a time until the entire sky was burning. He basked in its muted glow, his skin tingling. — Lily Brooks-Dalton


Thriller in Denmark

Smilla’s Sense of Snow - Peter Høeg

Smilla's Sense of Snow
> Peter Høeg

Grab a blanket and add a slug of whiskey to your tea: This immigrant story — masquerading as a breathless thriller — is set in the bone-chilling cold of Copenhagen and Greenland.

Our (anti)hero Smilla Jasperson is an Inuit who spent her childhood in Greenland, and she possesses an innate ‘feeling for snow.’ A little prickly and a lot introverted, she’s much more comfortable with mathematics and solitude than she is with people and feelings.

But her 6-year-old neighbor has made small cracks in her icy resolve, beginning to thaw her defenses and create fissures in her heart that she thought were permanently closed. When the boy is found dead — presumably from a fall from the roof of their Copenhagen apartment building — she’s convinced that something more sinister is going on.

This black-as-pitch mystery moves at a good clip, and its atmosphere seeps into your bones like an imperceptible draft under the door. The foreboding location is another character in the story, reflecting both Smilla’s peril and the ache she carries alongside her fortitude. {more}

Do you know what the mathematical expression is for longing? … The negative numbers. The formalization of the feeling that you are missing something. — Peter Høeg


Classic Crime in the Austrian Alps

Crossed Skis - Carol Carnac

Crossed Skis
> Carol Carnac

In western Europe, the dark cloud of war has dissipated, and the new year of 1951 is about to begin. On January 1, a group of bright young things leaves London’s gray, cold oppressiveness behind to ski, dance, and perhaps, romance in the Austrian Alps. What could possibly go wrong?

Miss Bridget Manners is in a bit of a tizzy. Her carefully organized ski party of eight girls and eight young men is about to unravel, just hours before they’re meant to board a train at Victoria station. But phone calls and friends-of-friends save the day, and soon the motley crew of acquaintances, siblings, and interesting strangers is on its way to the mountaintop resort of Lech am Arlberg.

As they tromp through the woods and explore the village, we gradually get to know the diverse characters. Author Carol Carnac (the pen name of Edith Caroline Rivett) plays a neat trick: At the beginning of the book, keeping straight who’s who is a bit of a challenge — just as it is for the characters themselves. They’re mostly unknown to each other, and conversation runs toward the awkward and circumspect.

Meanwhile, in a downtrodden corner of London, a mysterious fire leaves a victim among the ashes, and Inspector Julian River of Scotland Yard is on the case. He discovers a curious clue that indicates the culprit is a skier. And we begin to suspect all might not be as it seems among Miss Manners’ holiday revelers.

As the plot smoothly slaloms between the storylines, there’s also a marked contrast betwixt the carefree revelry of the ski party and the relentless, procedural approach of the dogged policemen. And although World War II is in the rearview mirror, the emotional bruises of those dangerous years are still tender and healing. {more}

It was lovely: even on the railway track and on the long low platform, they were conscious of the snow peaks rising gloriously into the soft blue of the afternoon sky, of the crisp powdery dryness of snow which had a totally different quality from the squalid soiled snow of London streets. In the intense light, reflected back from white ground and roofs and slopes, everybody looked different: dark was darker, fair was fairer, color was brighter. Clearly defined, sharp cut, brilliantly lit, everything had a quality of vividness and vitality which was exciting, so that fatigue was forgotten and laughter bubbled up in a world which was as lovely as a fairy tale. — Carol Carnac


Gothic in Iceland

The Glass Woman - Caroline Lea

The Glass Woman
> Caroline Lea

If you find phrases like ‘reminiscent of Jane Eyre and Rebecca’ or ‘set against the backdrop of 17th-century witch trials’ or ‘Gothic-infused’ appealing, this is the Iceland story for you.

A rural village in Iceland in 1686 is not an easy place for anyone to be. But it’s especially difficult for the young, unmarried, poor daughter of a dead clergyman. Rósa and her beloved mother are in dire straits. So when a trader named Jón comes to town — gruff, intimidating, ill-mannered but financially viable — and offers his hand (but not his heart) in marriage, Rósa reluctantly accepts.

After a grueling horseback journey to his isolated home in western Iceland, she receives a chilly welcome from the villagers. And soon, she’s hearing unsettling rumors. Jón’s previous wife disappeared. No, she died. Actually, they whisper, she was murdered. It doesn’t help that Jón’s best friend Pétur is thought to be feral. Or a demon. Or a changeling.

Although she lives among vast swaths of land and sea, a sense of claustrophobia infuses the story. Rósa is trapped: by snowstorms, the wind, and the vow she made to this stranger to whom she’s now connected for life. And she’s dogged in her pursuit to unravel the mysteries of her new husband, the villagers’ superstitions, and the secret upstairs. {more}

The sky was a wide blue eye above her. When it paled, near midnight, the sun would skim below the edge of the horizon, then resurface in a blink, shedding a milky half-light. In the distance squatted the upturned tabletop of Hekla. It spat smoke and ash into the sky, sometimes spewing out black rocks and lava to entomb the land and people for miles around. Hekla was known to be the open door into Hell. All in Iceland feared it, and many would rather die than live within sight of it. But Rósa could not imagine living anywhere else. — Caroline Lea


Apocalyptic Thriller in the Arctic

The Raven’s Gift - Don Rearden

The Raven's Gift
> Don Rearden

John and his wife Anna are enthusiastic teachers, and they’ve just signed on for a grand adventure. They’re heading to a remote Yup’ik village in southwestern Alaska for new jobs and new lives.

But this adventure takes a dark turn that neither of them could have anticipated. An epidemic decimates their village, and they’re forced to quickly learn painful lessons about Alaskan history and its deadly climate.

Author Don Rearden grew up on the tundra and rivers of Alaska, and a real-life epidemic in the late 1800s inspired this story. His prose, like the landscape it describes, is painfully beautiful — and he deftly blends elements of adventure, dystopian lit, suspense, and magical realism.

This is a bracing look at contemporary subsistence culture and the threat of epidemic in a climate where the weather is both an inciting incident and a character in this hero’s journey. {more}

John bent down and pressed his hand into the tundra moss. The stuff fascinated him. Up close, he could see countless species of intricate sponge-like plants all connected to each other: lichens and moss and grass, roots, berries, mushrooms, flowers of all colors, all in the space of his hand. He pressed his fingers into the cool wet sponge and held it there for a moment. The ground felt alive. — Don Rearden


Coming-of-Age/Mystery Mashup in Russia

Lights All Night Long - Lydia Fitzpatrick

Lights All Night Long
> Lydia Fitzpatrick

A coming-of-age character study and a legit murder mystery, this novel is as entertaining as it is emotionally charged. It will leave you feeling bruised and a bit breathless.

Our hero is 15-year-old Ilya, a gifted student whose aptitude for the English language is about to change his life. His perpetual companion is his brother Vladimir, a few years older and a troubled young man whose love for his brother is as damaging as it is pure.

The brothers divide their time between going online at the Internet Kebab and watching bootleg VHS tapes of American films. Their (fictional) hometown of Berlozhniki in northwestern Russia would be unremarkable were it not for two factors: the shocking, brutal murders of three young women and the oil refinery that dominates the landscape and the lives of the townspeople.

When Ilya is chosen for an exchange program in Louisiana, it seems that the boys’ American dream will come true. But then Vladimir confesses to the girls’ murders and is thrown in jail. Convinced of his brother’s innocence, Ilya commits himself to finding the real murderer. {more}

Ilya had never had faith in anything except that knowledge could be gained. Numbers in a column added up to something. If you stared at a word, if you sounded out the letters and visualized its meaning, it could be learned. And there was Vladimir. Vladimir, who could not be counted on for anything, who was untrustworthy in a million little ways, but who had still managed to inspire Ilya’s faith. — Lydia Fitzpatrick

Top image courtesy of Joel & Jasmin Førestbird/Unsplash.

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