Time and again, Banville sets up and then deftly demolishes the Agatha Christie format he seems to be aping. Everything that seems creakingly familiar about the country-house murder turns out to be darker and darker still ... I won’t reveal how the plot thickens. Banville’s depiction of the young republic that Ireland then was (real independence came only in 1937) is fascinating ... The book sings with authenticity and Banvillian tropes ... Banville is one of the great stylists of fiction in English and Snow allows the limpid cadences of his prose free rein ... An entertainment, perhaps, but a superbly rich and sophisticated one.
The ambience and detail of Banville’s book are superb, but the story itself is ham-fisted, most especially in a long section, simply plopped down out of nowhere, devoted to the priest’s thoughts of a decade earlier in which he describes his activities. Though clues, red herrings, and another dead body litter the pages, there is no real plot here and when the solution to the murder comes it is predictable—except for a final coda, which is frankly unbelievable. John Banville is a great writer, but perhaps he has run out of material.
Tongue in cheek, Banville introduces us to a cast of clichéd characters from an Agatha Christie novel ... Yet these are not actors. These are real people, much deeper than their caricatures suggest ... enjoy the complex characters drawn with beautiful prose and flashes of humor.
... an interesting, if not entirely successful, departure from form ... uninterested in psychology and so consumed with whodunit ... As the plot unfolds, Banville delights in reminding us that this is genre fiction, that he knows his tropes and that his characters do, too ... Not so satisfying is the plot resolution: The priest was killed and castrated for exactly the reason you think a priest would be killed and castrated. Odd for a writer of Banville’s formal accomplishment, there are also real structural issues ... You see the denouement coming from a mile away; it also seems weirdly rushed.
If you’ve ever watched someone build a house of cards and then immediately knock it down, you’ll have a feel for what esteemed Irish novelist John Banville does in his latest mystery, Snow ... a salubrious hybrid. While the setup might resemble a Black novel, the prose reflects Banville at his best, especially when he’s describing the titular weather ... In a scant few pages, Banville literally upends his beautifully constructed house of cards with a violence and savagery that feels wholly earned. The true voice and face of evil resides here in a system that purports to hold up the Irish people but rots from within. To say much more would not spoil the plot, but it might spoil the effect of the damage done ... Is it all predictable? Perhaps. If you’re expecting a razor-sharp fair-play mystery, you’re in the wrong place. Banville has written that type of narrative successfully. He didn’t kill off Black in order to write Black’s books. He means to use Black’s framework for his own purposes ... In doing so, Banville joins an illustrious group of authors who have understood that the conventions of genre can expand fiction’s possibilities ... Banville flicks away his house of cards not simply for the fun of watching it scatter, but in order to reveal what lies beneath.
It is a novel steeped in the conventions of murder mystery ... Snow isn’t just readable and entertaining, it’s as profound and beautiful as anything by John Banville. It reveals a mellowing late style. The tortured, modernist-inspired prose of his younger self, transfiguring reality with obscure adjectives and baroque metaphors, is no more. Instead he sees the world as it is, with a hard-boiled vision imbibed from crime writing. The metaphors are now cosily familiar, the ordinary described in terms of the ordinary ... Easily the best writing in the book comes when the dead man’s voice is conjured in an unexplained 'interlude' (an old letter? A posthumous soliloquy?) that chillingly captures the rationalisations of abuse ... It’s classic Banville.
This strain of self-aware irony runs like a vein of gold through Snow, where the author’s loyalty to the standard manor-house form often slips off the sprocket, yielding vivid moments of stark realism, wry humor, politico-literary satire, pathos, and, occasionally, arch social comedy. Think Agatha Christie punched up by Charles Dickens. Or James Joyce ... Banville, for the first time writing a mystery sans pseudonym Benjamin Black, gives us a disruptive take on the genre that’s subversive, seductive, engaging, and brilliantly written from beginning to end. If you swagger in without shaking off the typical expectations of how things should go in a story like this, you can lose the thread and miss the tragic resonance of the lonely protagonist at the heart of the investigation ... Banville occasionally flubs the purist mechanics of the country-house genre, notably with a long insert in the victim’s voice that banishes all readerly uncertainty about the killer’s motives. This variation from the well-made mystery model may cloy some readers ... Still, the writing is as skillful and elegant as you might expect from a Booker laureate. Banville moves his narrative forward with grace, although on every page or so, an apt and evocative turn of phrase emerges to break the spell, grabbing the reader by the throat.
... a gritty mystery, set in dark, bleak winter days in a secretive Irish village whose inhabitants have futures to protect and pasts they don’t want discovered ... Banville does a stunning job of capturing the chill --- of the residents, of the aristocratic Osbornes, of the weather --- and he uses it all to great advantage in creating a sinister mood, and joining it all together to build an atmosphere that will send shivers down your spine and have you running for a well-lit, warm room.
Snow is terrible. Not just mundanely flat, but aggressively, sneeringly terrible ... One wonders what Banville — who won the 2005 Booker Prize for his novel, The Sea, and has been writing the marvelous Quirke mystery series under his 'Benjamin Black' pseudonym since 2007 — thought he was doing in writing this ostentatious crypt of a detective novel?
Snow represents the first time that Banville has wrested credit for a mystery novel from his crime-writing alter ego, Benjamin Black, and with good reason: Snow is a beautifully executed, nostalgia-churning throwback that directs the occasional wink at the reader.
His latest novel, for good or ill, exaggerates his self-awareness, to encompass not just characters and objects but also the mechanics of the whodunit ... If the new novel presents a strangely neutered state of affairs, this cannot be ascribed solely to the peculiarity of its setting ... With his impulse toward mental play that stops short of full introspection, Strafford resembles the confessional narrators of The Book of Evidence and The Untouchable ... in a twist on the traditional policier, Snow's major confession is not that of the murderer, but that of his victim. This late monologue, which supplies the motive for the crime, is a malignant stew of leering and self-justification—and in this sense marks an advance, albeit a highly unpleasant one, on the technique Banville has long developed ... Banville might be said to have apprenticed himself to his own earlier self ... Snow offers many reminders of Banville’s mastery of unsettling personification ... The danger of a work like Snow is that the copy might degrade the original. What is stunning suffers from being unmasked as a trick. At times, Snow feels like a room in which a harsh, overhead light has been suddenly switched on, revealing gold as gold paint, flaking. In fact, the earlier works are more than secure in themselves, but their—even highly competent—reproduction nonetheless prompts unease. From a writer of Banville’s magnificent talents, one might have hoped for more cunning ways of leaving the reader wanting more.
This is one of the best mystery stories I've read in years and its emotional impact resonates long after the book comes to an end ... Towards the book's end, we learn a lot more about the priest and gives an even greater urgency to Strafford's final deductions and to the case's ultimate outcome ... Strafford himself is a wholly engaging figure ... Yet he's so alert to his surroundings that you relish being in his company, not least for his sardonic observations on those he encounters ... all the characters come vividly alive, not least some of the minor players ... There's also a humour and kindliness to this book that might surprise readers who only know John Banville for his more cerebral fiction. In the same way that Strafford is careful not to form judgments about the people he meets, the author is mindful that everyone has their reasons, even if some of these reasons turn out to be monstrous ... Beautifully written (of course), this is an outstanding novel and an absolute page-turner.
What prompted the author to dispense with his pseudonym on this occasion is unimportant; what matters is his intelligent and captivating thriller which keeps the reader hooked until the final sting in the tale ... Gradually, almost stealthily, Banville allows his plot to thicken ... Banville stirs in religious tension and class division without reducing momentum or impairing the atmosphere of queasy dread. At regular turns his functional, clear-cut prose is elevated by expertly crafted formulations and descriptions ... Ignore the lacklustre title; this novel has complexity and heft. With luck it is no stand-alone case for Strafford but the first of many.
The distinction between literary and crime fiction has been kicked down and Banville is about Black’s business: that is the real mystery at the centre of Snow ... The suspects are finely drawn ... As Strafford politely searches for the murderer, clues drop like heavy branches on to fallen snow, each with a resounding thud. Banville does not deploy Black’s competence at constructing a satisfying murder mystery in Snow. His purpose here is more literary ... The reason Snow has been published under Banville’s name is that it isn’t really crime fiction; it is a beautifully written, atmospheric, literary novel that begins with a murder.
This is a conventional opening and an arresting one. What we have is indeed in one sense a conventional and rather old-fashioned detective novel, which is fair enough since it is set in the Ireland of the 1950s. It is also, I think, the first crime novel that the doyen of Irish novelists today, John Banville, has chosen to publish under his own name, his previous crime fiction having been attributed to his nom-de-plume Benjamin BlackIn truth, though Banville employs and respects the method of the classic detective story, the question of whodunit is of marginal interest ... the novel is rich in pleasures: the chilly atmosphere of Osborne’s Ballyglass House, the evocation of the country inn where Strafford lodges; the rich array of characters...all are thoroughly imagined and realized ... Banville brings off an astonishing double. On the one hand he presents us with a picture of a narrow, barren society in which the establishment of the truth is regarded by authority as unsettling, dangerously divisive, and therefore undesirable. On the other hand his evocation of this dank, now-buried Ireland, with its bitter memories of the war of independence and the civil war which followed, memories which still corrupt the present is, despite its harsh injustice, strangely enchanting ... This is a novel which demands and deserves to be read slowly, with close attention. It had me doing what I rarely have time or indeed inclination to do with a book that comes for review: to go back to the beginning and read it again with an even deeper pleasure and admiration.
Banville’s characters — the cast of suspects, per se — each have their eccentricities which make them more vivid, even slightly haunting ... Through this twist, Banville cleverly ups the stakes of his novel, adding a sense of suspense on top of curiosity ... All these elements of intrigue come together in Snow to give us a classically compelling mystery ... worth a read for being a well-written, engaging and entertaining mystery, but not much more. It does not do much to subvert or 'play with' its genre. And that isn’t a value judgment on my part; as Todorov notes, 'the masterpiece of popular literature is precisely the book which best fits its genre.' If anything then, Snow is a testament to Banville’s mastery of detective fiction.
It’s all very arch...but it’s also hugely enjoyable ... while Banville is in playfully mischievous form as he toys with the mystery novel’s cliches and conventions, it’s his ability to situate the reader in the chilly, seedy grandeur of the Great House that makes Snow such a compelling read.
... intriguing and satisfyingly complex ... A literary mystery that takes the country house murder trope but reveals a darker truth about a closed off society than readers are used to ... Traditionalists won’t like the description of this novel as a country house mystery because it doesn’t play by the rules, this is nasty murder, sensitively portrayed, but very real world, (caveat emptor delivered). The frozen landscape of winter in the novel is a metaphor for the static and stale society of the country manor admits surrounding community ... entertaining, a lot like the Quirke novels in its insightful dissection of Irish society and the picture it builds of place and time. The novel is not so much about unmasking the murderer as understanding the motivations and psychology of the crime, there’s a rottenness and decay to this society. No one wants to acknowledge a truth behind a terrible crime. Fans of Quirke will find much to enjoy is this novel.
Banville decorates his deceptively complex mystery with literary flourishes and uses familiar classical-era tropes to camouflage the darkness lurking below the surface ... No order-restoring resolution here, in this brilliant mix of old tropes and sadly modern evil.
Affecting prose and depth of characterization largely compensate for the predictable plot of this whodunit ... Strafford’s inquiry follows standard lines, and the various reveals won’t surprise genre fans. This is not one of Banville’s best.