Thu
Mar 6 2014 6:30pm

The Bibliotherapist is IN: Snowbound

It’s me again, kittens. Your friendly neighborhood Bibliotherapist, and believe me when I tell you that I know what’s ailing you. Yes, you. And you, too. Gather round, chumps and listen up.

As I write this now, we are out of salt, out of sand, and out of patience. I love the winter. Really, I do. It’s just right in my wheelhouse, with all the staying inside, all the cups of tea and cocoa (with whiskey), all the snuggling down to read.

But really? I’ve had enough. And when I have had enough, you know enough has been had by all.

But there’s nothing to be done about it, except settle in for another storm. So here’s my reading list for combating the Snowbound/Cabin Fever situation. Some of them feature snowbound detectives and manor houses, so you’ll know you’re not alone. Some feature sunny and summery vacation spots to give you something to look forward to. Others, well…sometimes it’s good to watch somebody else go on a murderous rampage, so you don’t have to do it yourself.

The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie

Hail to the Queen, baby. Nobody can make a snow day pass more quickly than Dame Agatha can. And while The Sittaford Mystery has neither Miss Marple and her knitting bag, nor Poirot and his little gray cells, it gets extra points for featuring not only a snowbound manor house, but also a murder predicted by a Ouija Board, which is always a plus.

 

Recommended beverage: Earl Grey Tea with Brandy

 

Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg

For those made of slightly sturdier stuff, I recommend the bleak Danish landscape of Hoeg’s Smilla’s Sense of Snow. While not excessively graphic or violent, Hoeg’s novel is slower paced, more philosophical, and bleak at its heart. Smilla’s friend, a little boy, supposedly “fell off the roof”, but her sense of tracking, literally her “sense” of snow and ice, tells her otherwise. If you’re looking for something to burrow deeply inside of, if you’re looking for a hole as dark as the one you’re in, try this.

Recommended beverage: Akvavit

 

Death by Water by Kerry Greenwood  (Phryne Fisher historical series)

And now right around the other side of Bleak Danish Crime, we find an irascible savior in The Honorable Phryne Fisher. I recommend you climb aboard the S.S. Hinemoa, a New Zealand cruise ship of the most luxurious order. And because our Ms. Fisher doesn’t do anything by halves, we get a Giant Cursed Sapphire, a shady professor, and a philandering wife/jealous husband combo.  For those of us who can’t even look at another snowbound landscape, no matter how fictional or picturesque, a jewel-theft on the high seas might be just the thing. All that Australian sunshine, all that good salt air, all that lovely open space on deck – yes, please and thank you.

Recommended beverage: Champagne Cocktail

 

The Hunter by Richard Stark (a Parker novel)

Writing under one of his many pseudonyms, Donald Westlake gives us the first of the many Parker novels. An old pulp heist/revenge story from the early sixties might seem a strange choice for a Snowbound book recommendation, but hear me out. We all have different reactions to confinement; some of us feel like…well, like we want to murder somebody. And not all murder mysteries give us this kind of vicarious pleasure. It is not, after all Miss Fisher or Poirot who are doing the killing. And Westlake’s immoral criminal cuts a ruthless swath through anyone in his way: prison guards, cops, the guy who got him sent away. Without the level of soul-chilling disturbia of something like American Psycho, the Parker novels just ride us through the world of violence and crime, as a silent passenger – all the pleasure, none of the guilt.

Recommended beverage: Black Label beer, or Old Crow bourbon

 

Snuff by Terry Pratchett (A Discworld Novel)

I’m a fan of Terry Pratchett in general, and I’ve included him on this list because the weather is starting to give me a bad mood, and in my experience most bad moods are powerless in the face of Sir Terry. I am especially fond of his police procedurals featuring the City Watch of Ankh-Morpork, and in Snuff, we find our beloved Captain of the Guard, Sam Vines, forcibly taken on vacation by his wife. But everyone knows that a good cop can sniff out a crime just about anywhere, Captain Vimes soon finds himself with a body to deal with. While the mystery may not be as tight as one of Dame Agatha’s, nor the set dressing as luxurious as Miss Fisher’s, there’s something in Pratchett’s tone, something in his dry humor that sets him apart. Make no mistake, he is not “riffing” or “making fun” of procedurals with the City Watch, if anything, it’s a bit of a love letter to the genre. But there’s something doubly pleasurable about poor Captain Vimes, determined to be miserable on his trip to the countryside, that creates a calm and funny center inside my poor soul which will surely soon turn to ice.

Recommended beverage: Calvados or Applejack Brandy, the closest we round-worlders ever come to Scumble

 


Amy Eller Lewis is a writer and Library Fairy in Southern New England. She works at one of the oldest libraries in the country, www.providenceathenaeum.org which is definitely haunted. Follow her on Twitter @amyellerlewis or on Tumblr: scriptoriana.tumblr.com.

Read all of Amy Eller Lewis's posts on Criminal Element.

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2 comments
Terrie Farley Moran
1. Terrie
All the Parker novels by Westlake/Stark are wonderful. thanks so much for the reminder.
Michael Nethercott
2. MichaelNethercott
Amy, Interesting to see your review of The Sittaford Mystery since I just reread it myself last month (after about a 40 year gap!) The copy I have uses the alternate American title Murder at Hazelmore. Cooincidently I also have an essay this week in Criminal Element ("The Agatha of my Youth") in which that cover is one of the illustrations. So Dame Agatha double-dipped here...
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