Snow Falling on Cedars

Written by David Guterson
Review by Karen Wintle

In 1954, a fisherman is found dead in the nets of his boat, and a local Japanese-American man is charged with his murder. Prejudice, which has become entrenched in the community since the attack on Pearl Harbour, bubbles to the surface as a court trial takes place and threatens to overcast the proceedings until a crucial piece of evidence is found.

I loved this book from the first page. It says on the cover it is ‘a glorious whodunnit’ but it is so much more than that. There is such careful, exquisite detail. The prose is dense with it; imagery like, ‘scritching sound of leaves’ is so apt and atmospheric. Besides that, it deals with such timeless matters, racial prejudice and the difficulties of second- generation immigrants. The murder mystery keeps on simmering, ensuring that you follow the story throughout but more is at stake than one man’s guilt or innocence. The flashbacks, often long and complex, relate to the stories behind a community’s fear and prejudice against its neighbours. It is a story of love, hatred and long memories. Read it for its mystery but also for the intricate and rich prose. Recommended.