“Your sentimentality about weather is adorable, but don’t get too excited. I’m still wondering how I’m going to write six thousand words on snowmen.”
In 1933, Vera Ray finished her night shift at the Olympic Hotel and stepped out into an unexpected May snowstorm. Arriving home, she found her three-year-old son Daniel missing – and his teddy bear lying in the snow. Nearly eighty years later, another May blizzard sets reporter and newly bereaved mother Claire an assignment. Can she find out what happened to Daniel all those years before?
There’s a small taste of mystery here, with a break-in and an inconclusive coroner’s verdict, but mostly this is an investigation in the context of a marriage in trouble, interspersed with moments from the past to keep the reader interested if not better informed than our sleuthing protagonist. High society is under the microscope, as is Depression-era poverty and life as a single mother in the 30’s.
Vera is a lovely character – determined, loving, resolute; and broken by the disappearance of her son. Claire is charmingly fallible and ill-at-ease in her husband’s social circle. Top marks go to the best friends – Caroline and Abby are both no-nonsense, fun-loving and capable of spurring both the more demure heroines into a bit of action when necessary.
The novel is very firmly set in Seattle – I’ve never been, but I felt well grounded there. And now I know that Pike Place is a market and not just a Starbucks brand! There was some beautiful writing about Puget Sound and Bainbridge Island, and I’d be keen to see some of the places in the book if I ever make it to Seattle.
In its structure, this really reminded me of Russian Winter which I read earlier this year and very much enjoyed – the young woman digging secrets out of the past, intertwined with the young woman several decades ago who suffered a change of fortune. If you enjoyed that, read this, and vice versa.
A few tiny criticisms:
– I felt the men were generally undercooked. Ethan has a couple of odd-but-convenient-for-the-plot changes of heart, Dominic was a bit too nice, Sven was quite an interesting character but not developed as much as he might have been.
– I was a bit fed up with Claire by the end; she had become quite selfish and self-indulgent (admittedly, she’d had a rough year).
– The unexpected ending (which was delightful) then dragged a bit, or became too sentimental as they go to the old apartment – I wanted something with a bit more snap to it.
Having said all of that, it is a beautiful book with a solid but not gruesome mystery, and a complicated protagonist. Definitely worth checking out.