Steve and Zack are on a hunting trip in the wilds of Montana with their guide, Curt, when Zack discovers a crashed plane with cocaine in it. Steve persuades him not to tell anyone and that they can sell the cocaine themselves to make a profit. They both need the money. Steve’s investment firm is going down the pan and ex-footballer Zack has gambling debts. So when Curt goes into town to report the plane crash they stay behind and begin to execute their plan.
One of the things I liked was that Steve and Zack were pretty inept in their dealings – they were about as good at being cocaine traffickers as I would be. This felt real and plausible but it left me wondering why it took the police struggled as they did to get to them. (There is a sort-of justification – the police want to catch the big-scale traffickers who chartered the plane – but that would be a major federal operation, not one police officer and a mobile phone.)
The quality of the characterisation varies throughout the book. It starts well – on the one hand you have Zack, who generally has good intentions but is weak and self-pitying. On the other you have Steve, who is manipulative and whose privileged upbringing leads him to overestimate his own abilities. Later on though, their voices seem to merge so at times it’s hard to tell which is which.
It would have been better if the author had made more of the shifting dynamics of the Steve/Zack friendship – what brings them together and what forces them apart, but this got lost in a lot of repetition of their backstories, driving around to no clear purpose and mutual recrimination.
The implicit theme of the story could be said to show that even if you’re in a position of relative privilege, like an investment manager or NFL player or gangster, you are still a cog in an unjust system. If it had stayed implicit it might have been effective. However, all the characters articulate an eerily similar critique of predatory capitalism and the war on drugs. Clearly, these are the views of the author rather than the characters and in hitting the reader over the head with them he tends to irritate rather than inspire.
I liked the premise of this novel. There is some lovely writing in here, particularly the opening chapters in the Montana wilderness, and, by contrast, the author’s jaundiced perspective on the Vegas casinos. I just wish he’d given the characters room to think for themselves.
I received a copy of Snow from the publisher via Netgalley.
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