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Röd snö Tomas Ringstedt, Röd snö (Red Snow)

Albert Bonniers förlag,  2011. ISBN: 9789100125608

Reviewed by Anna Paterson in SBR 2012:1

Technically, Röd snö is exciting, a thriller plotted by a man who knows his stuff. Tomas Ringstedt studied literature and philosophy before turning to molecular biology and neuroscience, which in turn landed him a prestigious post as an expert on neurochemical minutiae of neonatal brain development.

Is it worth knowing all this about the author before learning about the book? I think so. It might balance any sense of weariness caused by reading a description of the hyperactive plot – or plots. A deadly virus and a wealthy I-vill-destroy-all-zemankind scientist (yes, he is a German environmentalist) are pivotal to the action, which also features a bipolar, gun-toting farmer and an aristocratic army captain-cum-molecular biologist with the face of a pre-Raphaelite angel. In her wake, a smoothly handsome, psychopathic deep-green ecologist and a ruggedly handsome DSI with a splintered marriage, together with some nice cops, a corrupt cop, some rabid neoNazi thugs, some rabid Islamist thugs and an SAS-style band of cheerful killers. All these people and quite few more are involved in criss-crossing plotlines, most of which involve brutal violence.

Clearly, Ringstedt’s thriller could have been a messy, over-ambitious letdown. Instead, it is too interesting and neatly controlled to be disappointing. The author is very clever, insightful about the quirky by-ways of the mind, knows a lot about science and in particular about viruses – and also has a good if somewhat mechanical understanding of how to write.

Best of all are the passages set in high-biosecurity laboratories with their sinister, inhuman bleakness and their correspondingly dull, isolated settings in places where nobody goes. Next time, Ringstedt might try to cut out all normal interiors and exteriors and write a wholly institutional thriller.

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