I had wanted to read this novel since it was first published in the early 1990s and with all the popularity of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo bringing Scandinavian writers into the spotlight this boo is again popping up on every one's 'must read' lists.
The book is divided into 2 parts The City and The Sea.
For me The City was a 4 star story. We gradually get to know the rather strange narrator and protagonist Smilla as she tells us about the mysterious death of child, her neighbour. We are introduced to various issues about Greenlanders and Denmark as the timeline switches between the funeral and Smilla's memories of the boy and the evocative descriptions of her own childhood in Greenland.
This non-linear timeline keeps the reader a little off-kilter without being intrusive and helps maintain the pace in a story where, at first, there is little action and much exposition.
When the action does develop it is quite brutal and is interspersed with scenes of the developing relationship between Smilla and the Mechanic.
While there is an amazing host of colourful side characters I felt some of the scenes were unnecessary and simply included to showcase these characters.
In contrast Smilla is a little too cold and calculating and although Greenlandic women maybe different, I have no Greenlandic friends to enable a comparison, I feel the author missed a little femininity - liking fancy clothes is just not enough.
Even at this stage I found the logic directing Smilla's investigation a little vague and really had no idea why she felt so sure she needed to be aboard the Kronos.
The second half is aboard ship and at this point the pace slows to glacial.
There are endless wanderings round the ship which do advance our understanding of the mystery but should have been pared down to a minimum.
The continued musing about the properties of ice and snow become more tedious as they now turn up as an info-dump rather than cloaked in the narrative of memory.
There is also a some quite brutal violence and it stretched my credulity to believe that such people wouldn't have happily killed Smilla straight away while the villain is neither as chilling or as fascinating as he is supposed to be which made the whole resolution of the 'mystery' a bit of a damp squib.
The murder of a child is horrifying but reason why and the explanation how it happened felt like an anti-climax.
An excellent start but a disappointing ending.