Saturday, January 20, 2018

Review: Snow

Snow Snow by Mike Bond
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this for review from NetGalley.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Some seemingly law-abiding citizens stumble across something valuable and decide to keep it even though they know it will be dangerous to do so. Oh, you have heard it? Yeah, it’s been around a while.

Zach is a former NFL player turned television announcer, and Steve is his old friend and investment manager. They take an annual hunting trip to Montana every year where their buddy Curt acts as their guide while they camp in the woods. The guys are having trouble enjoying their vacation since Zach has run up huge gambling debts in Vegas and needs cash quickly while Wall Street shenanigans have wiped out the savings Steve was managing for him. This has also put Steve into a very deep hole that might ruin his family.

Zach comes across the crash of a small plane with hundreds of kilos of cocaine in it, and Steve immediately seizes on the idea of taking drugs and selling them to as a way of getting out of their mutual financial crisis. Because there’s no chance that an organization capable of filling a plane with millions of dollars of drugs will ever come looking for it, right?

Despite Zach’s reservations they haphazardly start a scheme that involves keeping the secret from Curt. Things escalate quickly. Mistake piles upon mistake. And just like that Zach and Steve are in deep trouble and soon realize that they can’t even trust each other anymore.

The trope of an ordinary person finding a bag of money or drugs which takes them straight down the path to hell is one I generally appreciate. However, this one seemed pretty clich├ęd. It starts out with a very similar set-up to Scott Smith’s A Simple Plan and then quickly morphs into an attempt at doing something like Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. (And those are two way better books I’d recommend if you’re in the mood for this kind of thing.) From there we cycle through all the checkpoints you’d expect to cross. You’ve got your ruthless enforcer from the drug cartel, a dedicated cop, some innocent people getting screwed over, etc. etc.

There’s also the odd way that it veers into social commentary and existential angst. Many a good crime novel includes these elements, but the writing here just seems to swing wildly from following the plot to going off on tangents about the environment, the perils of capitalism, and the way everyday life can chip at the soul. Those are all subjects that can easily and naturally pop up in a book like this, but the way they’re presented here often seems clumsy and ill-timed.

The most original aspect are the characters of Zach and Steve. The set-up leans in the direction of treating the football hero Zach as the good guy led astray by the fast talking Steve, but we get a more interesting perspective as we learn more about them. Zach is actually more of a hypocrite and selfish guy then he first appears while Steve isn’t quite the Wall Street d-bag you’d assume from the beginning. The way they almost accidently create an escalating mess is a great depiction of how quickly things can fall apart for someone once they decide to cross the line.

Despite its shortcomings I’m still a sucker for these kind of crime stories, and there was some very good character work done as well as some nicely atmospheric stuff that takes us from the snowy woods to the streets of Las Vegas. It’s not bad, but I can think of several better ones.

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