Lumikki Andersson has made it a rule to stay out of things that do not involve her. She knows all too well that trouble comes to those who stick their nose where it doesn’t belong. But Lumikki’s rule is put to the test when she uncovers thousands of washed Euro notes hung to dry in her school’s darkroom and three of her classmates with blood on their hands. Literally.
A web of lies and deception now has Lumikki on the run from those determined to get the money back—no matter the cost. At the center of the chaos: Polar Bear, the mythical drug lord who has managed to remain anonymous despite his lavish parties and notorious reputation. If Lumikki hopes to make it out alive, she’ll have to uncover the entire operation.
Even the cold Finnish winter can’t hide a culprit determined to stain the streets red.
“Fans of Nesbø and Larsson won’t be disappointed.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred
“This cold, delicate snowflake of a tale sparkles with icy magic.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred
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Sunday, February 28
Glittering white lay all around. Over the old snow, a new, clean layer of soft flakes had fallen fifteen minutes earlier. Fifteen minutes earlier, everything had still been possible. The world had looked beautiful, the future flickering somewhere in the distance: brighter, freer, more peaceful. A future worth risking everything, worth going all‑in, worth trying to make a break for it.
Fifteen minutes earlier, a light, downy snowfall had spread a thin feather blanket over the old snow. Then it had ceased, as suddenly as it had begun, followed by rays of sunshine breaking through the clouds. Hardly any days all winter had been this beautiful.
Now each moment saw more red encroaching on the white, spreading, gaining ground, creeping forward through the crystals, staining them as it went. Some of the red had flown farther, a shrieking, bright crimson spattering the snow.
Natalia Smirnova stared with brown eyes at the red-flecked snow, seeing nothing. Thinking nothing. Hoping nothing. Fearing nothing.
Ten minutes earlier, Natalia had hoped and feared more than ever before in her life. With trembling hands, she had stuffed money into her authentic Louis Vuitton handbag, anxiously listening for even the tiniest rustling from outside. She had tried to steady her nerves, assuring herself that everything was fine. She had a plan. But at the same time, she had known that no plan was ever perfect. An intricate edifice carefully constructed over months can collapse at the barest nudge.
The purse had also contained a passport and plane ticket to Moscow. She wasn’t taking anything else. At the Moscow airport, her brother would be waiting with a rental car, ready to drive her hundreds of miles to a dacha only a few people knew about. There, her mother would be waiting with three-year-old Olga, the daughter she hadn’t seen in more than a year. Would her little girl even remember her? But no matter. A month or two hiding out in the countryside would give them time to get to know each other again. While they waited until she believed they were safe. While they waited for the world to forget about Natalia Smirnova.
Natalia had stifled the nagging voice in her head that insisted no one would forget her at all. That they wouldn’t allow her to disappear. She had assured herself that she wasn’t so important that they couldn’t simply find someone to replace her if need be. And going to the effort of tracking her down would be too much bother anyway.
In this line of work, people disappeared now and then, usually taking some money along with them. That was just one of the risks of doing business—an unavoidable loss like the spoiled fruit a grocery store had to throw out.
Natalia hadn’t counted the money. She’d simply stuffed as much of it as she could into her bag. Some of the bills had gotten crumpled, but that didn’t matter. A crumpled five-hundred-euro bill was worth just as much as a crisp one. You could still buy three months of food with it, maybe four if you were really careful. You could still use it to buy a person’s silence for long enough. For lots of people, five hundred euros was the price of a secret.
Natalia Smirnova, age twenty, lay facedown, her cheek in the cold snow. Not feeling the prickling of the ice against her skin. Not feeling the frigid chill of thirteen below on her bare earlobes.
The man had sung about a woman named Natalia to her in a gruff voice, off-key. Natalia hadn’t liked the song. The Natalia in it was from Ukraine, but she was from Russia. On the other hand, she had liked the man who sang and stroked her hair. She’d just tried not to listen to the words. Fortunately, that had been easy. She’d known some Finnish, under-standing much more than she could speak, but when she stopped trying and let her mind relax, the foreign words ran together, losing their meaning and becoming nothing more than combinations of sounds falling out of the man’s mouth as he hummed sweetly against Natalia’s neck.
Five minutes earlier, Natalia had been thinking about that man and his slightly clumsy hands. Would he miss her? Maybe a bit. Maybe just a little bit. But not enough, because he had never loved her, not really. If he had loved her, really loved her, he would have solved Natalia’s problems for her, as he’d promised to do so many times. Now Natalia had to solve her problems for herself.
Two minutes earlier, Natalia had snapped her handbag shut, which bulged with cash. Quickly, she’d tidied up and then glanced at herself in the front hall mirror. Bleached blond hair, brown eyes, thin eyebrows, and shining red lips. She had been pale, with dark circles under her eyes from staying up too late. She had just been leaving. In her mouth, she had tasted freedom and fear, both of which had a metallic tang.
Two minutes earlier, she had looked her reflection in the eye and raised her chin. This was her chance to make a break, and she was taking it.
That’s when Natalia heard the key turning in the lock. She had frozen in place, straining her ears. One set of footsteps, then another, and a third. The Troika. The Troika were coming through the door.
All she could do was run.
One minute earlier, Natalia had charged through the kitchen toward the patio door. She’d fumbled with the lock. Her hands had been shaking too much to get the door unlatched. Then, by some miracle, it had given way, and Natalia had run across the snow-covered terrace into the garden. Her leather boots had sunk in the fresh snow, but she’d pressed on without looking back. She hadn’t heard anything. She had thought for a moment that she might make it after all, that she might escape, that she might actually win.
Thirty seconds earlier, a pistol fitted with a silencer had fired with a dull snap, and a bullet had pierced the back of Natalia Smirnova’s coat and skin, barely missing her spine and ripping through her internal organs and, finally, the handle of her Louis Vuitton bag, which she had been clutching to her chest. She had fallen forward into the pure, untouched snow.
The red puddle under Natalia continued to spread, consuming the snow all around. The red was still voracious and warm, but it cooled with each second that passed. One set of slow, heavy footfalls approached Natalia Smirnova as she lay in the snow. But she did not hear.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
"Hypeness" Rating: 1.5-2.0 Book received through Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review Summary: Lumikki Andersson has made it a rule to stay out of things that do not involve her. She knows all too well that trouble comes to those who stick their nose where it doesn’t belong. But Lumikki’s rule is put to the test when she uncovers thousands of washed Euro notes hung to dry in her school’s darkroom and three of her classmates with blood on their hands. Literally. A web of lies and deception now has Lumikki on the run from those determined to get the money back—no matter the cost. At the center of the chaos: Polar Bear, the mythical drug lord who has managed to remain anonymous despite hosting lavish parties and having a notorious reputation. If Lumikki hopes to make it out alive, she’ll have to uncover the entire operation. Even the cold Finnish winter can’t hide a culprit determined to stain the streets red. My Review: Note that I have NEVER read any other books by this author before. I was really disappointed reading this book. I rarely give a book a bad rating. When I first read the summary to this book I was really excited. I was fairly interested in reading the summary and it grabbed my attention right away. Unfortunately, this book was nothing as I expected. The starting wasn't bad. We enter right away to the crime and are later introduced to the main character. After the first couple chapters, the "hypeness" level drops dramatically and it seems like the story drags on. I think the author could have worked more on keeping the high energy throughout the book. After viewing many reviews, it has come to my attention that this book was actually translated from Finnish. It's possible that the book wasn't correctly translated or it just didn't grasp my attention. If this book was translated by someone else, it's possible that I may have enjoyed it more. Apparently, there are supposed to be fairy tale references along the way? I didn't find any references. Despite all of this, I have not given up on this book! Hopefully in the future, I will try this book again. Thank you once again to Blogging with Books for providing me a copy of this book
I could tell almost from the beginning how strong of a character Lumikki really is. She’s obviously been through quite a bit. All of her experiences have had a dramatic impact on her personality and behavior though not always in a positive way. She didn’t seem to mind her self imposed isolation and even enjoyed it. Through the story though it became obvious that she could also greatly enjoy even the most annoying of social contacts. The Glorious Lumikki’s strength was obvious from the very first page. Because of some past events in her life she’s had to grow and adapt to her environment. The way she wants to live isn’t always how things end up happening. I could sense her struggle against herself, wanting to isolate yet also do the right thing. The balance between what she’s learned thus far and her flexibility to keep learning and growing was great. As a self proclaimed introvert I absolutely adore reading about characters who aren’t social butterflies but also aren’t in angst over it. Far too often I’ll read about someone who is a loner or shy but doesn’t want to be. This isn’t the same as being introverted. It’s possible to be both but it was nice to read about someone who really appreciated just being with themselves. This was incredibly well balanced with the many issues she had as well which was a major bonus. No boys, no romance to get in the way of the suspense of the story. I really enjoyed being able to enjoy her as a person rather than just an element in some sappy relationship triangle. The Not so Glorious Wait, these are high school students? You want me to believe a teenager is doing all this? I will fully admit this might be a culture gap. The stories are written and based in a completely different country which most likely has different standards when it comes to this type of thing. For me though it would have made more sense had the characters been in college. Who knows, maybe I was just a really immature teen but this didn’t connect for me. I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
A fast-paced read that is miles away from an actual fairytale retelling, but still somewhat intriguing. Lumikki is an engaging, complex main character and the Finnish setting offered an extra layer. However, Lumikki’s skills are over the top (James Bond can hold no match to her), and the villains are completely laughable. Everyone except Lumikki seems to miss half a brain. Interesting, but not my cup of tea. I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.