book review: The Snow Collectors by Tina May Hall



Dzanc, February 12, 2020


The Snow Collectors, the arresting debut by Tina May Hall, is a tremendously interesting yet very uneven book.  Hall fuses gothic horror, mystery, and historical fiction into a bizarre yet intriguing blend (made more bizarre by the fact that it’s not a historical novel at all – it’s set in the present-day, or maybe the near-future).  It’s almost tongue-in-cheek at times in a way that weirdly reminded me of Northanger Abbey – the narrator comparing herself ironically to a gothic heroine – but the classic comparisons stop there as this is a much weirder book than a lazy Rebecca or Frankenstein comparison would convey.  Anyway, when it works, it’s brilliant, and when it falters, it does fall a bit flat.

I think the strongest element here is the snowy New England atmosphere, which is paying a deliberate homage to the arctic backdrop of the Franklin Expedition of 1845.  The protagonist, Henna, finds the body of a dead girl in her woods, and in investigating the crime as an amateur sleuth, she traces it back to the Franklin Expedition and more notably to John Franklin’s wife, the Lady Jane.  I did think these segments that focused on Jane were refreshing and interesting enough to mostly carry the novel.

Where this book never fully worked for me was in the contemporary murder mystery; it felt like an after-thought to the point where suspects were never properly introduced; I found the resolution obvious in the sense that it was the only resolution that had ever really been set up at all.  The present-day characters and their motivations also remain hazy to a frustrating extent, though Henna herself is a fascinating character.  All said, I did want a bit more from this, but I do also recommend checking it out if it appeals.  3.5 stars.

Thank you to Dzanc for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

You can pick up a copy of The Snow Collectors here on Book Depository.

5 thoughts on “book review: The Snow Collectors by Tina May Hall

  1. Nice review! I’m hoping the parts of this premise that appeal to me will help make up for the bits that fall short; it is good to know going in not to get carried away with hopes for a cohesive whole. I’m glad you found it worthwhile, if not perfect!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is exactly what I thought of this book! I think the only difference is that you rounded your 3.5 star rating up for your ‘official’ rating, and I rounded mine down 🙂 I agree that the murder mystery doesn’t work and would have preferred the focus to stay on the mystery surrounding the Franklin expedition.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh that’s so funny! I knew our general opinions overlapped but your review had been vaguer so I was planning on asking you what exactly worked for you and what didn’t! I really wish the murder mystery angle had been developed a bit more – it was an intriguing thread that held the book together but it just kind of fell flat on its face. I deliberated for AGES over 3 or 4 stars – 4 feels a bit generous but I decided to go for the benefit of the doubt, and I’d definitely pick up another book by her in the future.

      Liked by 1 person

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