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A. D. Miller's Snowdrops is an intensely riveting psychological drama that unfolds over the course of one Moscow winter, as a young Englishman's moral compass is spun by the seductive opportunities revealed to him by a new Russia: a land of hedonism and desperation, corruption and kindness, magical dachas and debauched nightclubs; a place where secrets - and corpses - come to light only when the deep snows start to thaw...Snowdrops is a chilling story of love and moral freefall: of the corruption, by a corrupt society, of a corruptible young man. It is taut, intense and has a momentum as irresistible to the reader as the moral danger that first enchants, then threatens to overwhelm, its narrator.
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Snowdrops: the badness that is already there, always there and very close, but which you somehow manage not to see. The sins the winter hides, sometimes for ever.
I was trying to fit in with the mafia ambience by wearing my dark work suit and a black shirt, but I probably looked like a member of the chorus in some school production of Guys and Dolls.
It was snowing. It was light, October snow, the type Russians call mokri sneg, damp snow, which settles on kind surfaces like the branches of trees and the roofs of cars, but is obliterated when it hits the unfriendly Moscow pavements.
In Russia, Steve said, there are no business stories. And there are no politics stories. There are no love stories. There are only crime stories.
I hurried through the scrum of lean Russian youths who were wrestling for their parents' luggage at the baggage carousels, and out into the crush of criminal-looking taxi drivers in the arrivals hall - into the particular Russian everyday war, the war of everyone against everyone else.
Snowdrop, said Steve. Your friend is a snowdrop. That's what they call them, he told me - that's what they call the bodies that come to light with the thaw. Drunks mostly, and homeless people who give up and lie down in the snow, and the odd vanished murder victim. Snowdrops.
The kind of person I never knew I could be until I came to Russia. But I could be, and I was. That's what I learned when my last Russian winter thawed. The lessonn wasn't about Russia. It never is, I don't think, when a relationship ends. It isn't your lover that you learn about. You learn about yourself. I was the man on the other side of the door. My snowdrop was me.