The Snow Garden
is the second novel from Christopher Rice, author of A Density of Souls
. Rice's debut marked him out as a writer of irresistible narrative skills--this was a gothic mystery rich in atmospheric detail and some highly individual characterisation. Similar elements appear in The Snow Garden
, but in some ways this second book is even more assured than its predecessor, with the emotional lives of its youthful protagonists (freshmen at Atherton University) delineated with real intelligence. Jesse, Randall and Kathryn find themselves connected by more than just their mutual studies.
In an ice-bound river, a professor's wife has drowned, and the unruffled surface of campus life at Atherton University is becoming agitated. Randall has had an affair with the professor, and revelations are pending in the local press. Rumours grow, and people in the town make connections with a similar death many years earlier, and the deception that binds the three friends together threatens to destroy them utterly.
It would be foolish to deny that the plot does not have strong echoes of Donna Tartt's much-acclaimed The Secret History, but Christopher Rice is very much his own man and such allusions are only momentarily distracting. Perhaps the gothic elements (so skilfully handled here) should not be too much of a surprise, as the author's mother is no less than Anne Rice, doyenne of the epic vampire novel. And as this contemporary horror story moves ineluctably to its chilling conclusion, Anne Rice may not be pleased by the fact that her son's book is considerably more impressive than anything she herself has done in some time. And the pulse-racing set-pieces here will no doubt soon be inspiring a bidding war in Hollywood. --Barry Forshaw
--This text refers to the
From Publishers Weekly
Life imitates art imitates late-night cable TV in Rice's second college gothic novel (after A Density of Souls). Set in the histrionic, pansexual pharmacopoeia that is freshman year at fictional Atherton University, it follows the secret dramas of Kathryn, a San Francisco waif on the run from dark sexual secrets back home; her black, militant lesbian roommate, April; her best friend, Randall, a mysterious, gay, Gucci-clad prince; his roommate, Jesse, an enigmatic and apparently irresistible (straight? bi? predatory?) sex god; Tim, gay muckraker for the campus paper; and Dr. Eric Eberman, an art history professor with a theory about Hieronymus Bosch which, the author seems to suggest, has something to do with the plot. Eberman is sleeping with Randall, and the news of his wife's sudden demise makes for a panicky recall of events of nearly 20 years ago. Randall, having just broken up with Tim, is finding it harder and harder to resist Jesse's mysterious magnetism, but in order to find out whether Eric is a murderer, starts sleeping with Tim again to probe Eric's past. Kathryn finds herself drawn to one of Eric's misfit grad students, and April, who seems to exist merely to counterbalance the XY pH of the overall bitches' brew of the book, makes an observation about Kathryn that might well be applied to the author himself: "... you like drama. Epic, who-shot-JR drama." Said tendency muddles what might otherwise have been a decent gay-themed mystery, but readers may not want to relive freshman year for 400 pages in order to learn whodunit. Agent, Lynn Nesbit. (Feb. 13)Forecast: The son of Anne and Stan has enough of a following to guarantee respectable sales, bolstered by a 15-city author tour, national advertising and a teaser chapter in the paperback of A Density of Souls.
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