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Moscow at the turn of this century could be a dangerous place: almost anything could be bought or extracted for a price, and many people were, for one reason or another, in on some deal or scheme to get ahead in the business of money, comfort or influence. Life was also fragile, people disappeared without a trace, only to turn up as "snowdrops" during the spring thaw. With his debut novel, SNOWDROPS, AD Miller delves into the unfettered, yet also manipulated, period of early capitalism in Russia that followed the collapse of the Soviet regime. Part crime, part love story, Miller's fast-paced, fluidly written and engaging novel combines these elements within a chilling psychological portrait of an expatriate corporate lawyer, who has been living comfortably in "wild Moscow". Miller's book is on the shortlist for this year's Man Booker Prize.

These are the Russian "gold-rush days", and Nick, Nicolai Ivanovich to the locals, a British lawyer, is caught up in financial and other dealings in more ways than one. Despite slowly realizing that all may not be as it appears with his new girlfriend, Masha, her sister Katya and Tatiana Vladimirovna, their aunt, and warnings from his cynical journalist friend, Steven Walsh, he cannot extricate himself from their influence. Rather, Nick prefers to adopt the popular advice of the day "the less you know, the longer you live".

In his business dealings Nick is as gullible, going with the flow: "Money in Moscow had its own particular habits", he muses by way of explanation and justification for his actions. "Money knew that someone in the Kremlin might decide to take it back at any moment..." Nick writes his story with hindsight, confessing "all, as honestly as I can", to his soon to be wife (he hopes). He admits to her that he was terribly naïve and totally in love with the mysterious Masha. He was blinded by his urge to "find the one", who would take him out of his pathetic early midlife crisis mood. He is still drawn to his life in Moscow, despite everything. Moscow can have that effect on those who have spent time there...

AD Miller evidently knows those effects. His intimate knowledge - as correspondent for The Economist - of Moscow and Russia, its diversity of peoples, and its sociopolitical reality of the time, adds to the story's authenticity and makes the locales more than a backdrop, but rather a lively participant in the unfolding human dramas. While we readers are fully absorbed in the novel's events, sometimes understanding earlier than the protagonist the associations between different people's actions, I could not help also thinking of developments beyond the confines of Russia and the early twentieth century. Many of the issues that Miller touches on are with us, even if in different, more subtle or hidden forms. [Friederike Knabe]
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RÉVISEUR DANS LE TOP 100le 8 janvier 2013
Snowdrops are the homeless in Moscow who die on the streets and are found lying in the snow in the winter. Mr. Miller’s story is the story of one of these snowdrops. Nick Platt is an expat lawyer who trades his dead-end life for the novelty, corruption and big bucks that can be made in Russia. Lonely and unattractive, Nick is the perfect target for the con that is to be played on an elderly woman whose large apartment in central Moscow becomes a target for those knowing the fortune that can be earned upon its acquisition. “Snowdrops” is a story about Moscow, Russia and the corruption and the personal tragedies that result. This is a book that needs to be read by those who have an interest in the new Russia.
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le 6 janvier 2012
An excellent book, entertaining & thought provoking, however, unmatched by the plot. A complete steady plot brought successfully to the punchline title but overall, muted. Hopefully he finds a plot equal to his writing in his next book. The Russian setting becomes a living thing. Written with an authentic, acerbic, negative feel that brings life somehow, not in a tired contrarian sense. A fine writer.
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le 17 mars 2013
I enjoyed this very much although I agree that the characters feel a little like 2D stereotypes. That said, there is little question that Moscow is the real character here. If I were the Russian tourist board, I'd be pretty unhappy. The descriptions of the people and places are fascinating but have put me off visiting entirely! Four stars for the easy read and credible descent of the willing protagonist.
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le 11 novembre 2011
I've seen this billed as a thriller in several places, but it sure isn't very thrilling; and to call it "intense psychological drama" is frankly laughable. It's more in the way of a travelogue about life in Russia. It's very fluently written, and if you're interested in learning about life in post-Communist Moscow, you could probably do quite a bit worse. But as it is mostly a description of the city and what goes on there, with some stereotypical, two-dimensional Russian characters and a couple of obvious, run-of-the-mill Russian scams thrown in (I guess they're supposed to be the "thrill"), to me it often dragged.

That it was nominated for the Booker debases the prize. There is no character development to speak of, and no insight into people or human life. The plot is extremely thin. The writing is highly competent, but nothing more. Surely there were higher-quality novels published in the Commonwealth this year.

This year's Booker controversy surrounded the comment that one panel-member apparently made to the effect that they were looking for "readability" this year. That's about all this book has. I've read three of the listed books so far, and only one, The Sisters Brothers, comes anywhere close to being credible as best book of the year, although even there it's a stretch. Pigeon English was a fun read and often funny, and it was better than Snowdrops; but really it's hard to see it as Booker material either. I think the criticisms of the panel are justified, and I agree with the third paragraph of Paolo's review, below.
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This is an easy to read story just because the prose flows easily. Miller knows how to write. The problem is that his characters and plot are a collection of stereotypes. It is exactly how I would imagine Moscow and the people you are likely to interact with, at my most superficial approach. As a thriller, this book fails as it doesn't build intrigue, suspense or a climax. As a novel, well, the writing is fine, but the characters' shallowness prevents it from transcending. Sorry, but you can skip this one.
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le 13 août 2011
Set in Moscow in the mid-noughties, Snowdrops is the story of Nick Platt is a British Lawyer who when travelling home one night on metro fights off a would be mugger. His intended target is Masha and her younger sister Katya. As Masha and Nick begin to become involved he is introduced to their aunt Tatiana Vladimirovna and finds himself compelled to help out in the sale of her apartment. The other thread of the story is that of Nick's involvement in the financing of an oil project off the coast of Murmansk on the Barents Sea.

The eponymous snowdrops are not just the pretty bulbous early blooming flower - in Moscow slang it is a corpse that only unearth's itself in the thaw following the long Russian winter. As one of the characters of book says, 'in Russia there are no business stories. And there are no politics stories. There are no love stories. There are only crime stories'. True or not, this is most certainly a crime story.'

Overall it is a pretty disappointing book. It is one that continues to promise action and intrigue but never actually delivers upon it. The plot is transparent and the ending easily forseen. The central character is so spineless and amoral that he simply isn't believable and the three threads of the story are essentially the same. Add to this a character called 'the Cossack' who could have stepped out of a cliché spy novel and characterisations of the Russians which verge on the racist mean that there is little good to be said of this book and once again I am left wondering how this made it into the Booker prize long list.
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