Sometimes on Friday mornings I stop in the wonderful Posman Books in Grand Central to browse the new arrivals tables and especially to pick up things I haven’t heard about but look great.  This morning I purchased something wholly on the basis of the cover design and the flap copy.  The book is “Snowdrops” by A.D. Miller.  Here’s why I bought it:

I was partly drawn to this because I have a forthcoming book with the word “Snow” in the title (“The Snow Child” people: February 2012: mark your calendars because it’s going to be an EVENT) but also because there was something quite intriguing about the elegant, perhaps even childlike, simplicity of the snowflake design with the sultry-looking woman behind it.  It was jarring: a study in contrasts, and I tend to like fiction that is not just one thing or the other.  The image conveys suspense and drama, but in a sophisticated, literary way.

My next glance was at the author bio, which noted that the writer studied literature at Cambridge and Princeton (he’s a smarty-pants) and was the Moscow correspondent for the Economist; the flap copy shows the novel is set in Moscow, which signals to me that he knows this material, and I love things set in far-away places.  But more on that copy: the headline is “An Intense Psychological Drama About the Irresistible Allure of Sin.”  To whoever wrote that I just want to say: two thumbs up.  The Irresistible Allure of Sin: what other allure is there?  The rest of the copy consists of three short paragraphs, the longest of which is three short sentences, the middle of which is as follows:

One day in the subway, [the protagonist] rescues two willowy sisters, Masha and Katya, from a would-be purse snacher.  Soon Nick, the seductive Masha, and the long-limbed Katya are cruising the seamy glamour spots of the city.  Nick begins to feel for Masha something he is pleased to think is love.  Then the sisters ask Nick to help their aged aunt, Tatiana, find a new apartment.

For me, that is five stories in one right there (why is he only pleased to think this is love?  What is the aged aunt doing in the picture?  Who is going to swindle whom?) but simply, alluringly, straightforwardly told.  The book was now making me think of David Benioff’s “City of Thieves,” which is one of my favorite books of the past decade.  (Really: if you’ve read “City of Thieves” and don’t like it, we can’t be friends).  Then I turned to this enticing epigraph:

Snowdrop. 1. An early-flowering bulbous plant; having a white pendent flower. 2. Moscow slang. A corpse that lies buried or hidden in the winter snows, emerging only in the thaw

But I have to confess, after all this, I still wasn’t sold.  The reason?  I’ve got a stack of books on my nightstand that is taller than the nightstand itself, of great-looking things I want to read.  So I did something that a lot readers might find heretical but has proven to be a fail-safe trick for me.  I skipped to the back and read the final sentence.  I’m not going to say what that sentence is here, but it was good, and I proceeded to the register.

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