Title: Ashes In The Snow
Author: Oriana Ramunno
Translator: Katherine Gregor
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: March 30th 2021
Finished reading: September 15th 2022
(Originally written in Italian: ‘Il bambino che disegnava le ombre’)
“A dead body is like the snow: sometimes, everything on the surface looks present and correct, perfect and clean. But it’s underneath that the murkiest things are concealed.”
*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***
It’s no secret that I have a weak spot for WWII fiction, and I was immediately intrigued when I read the blurb of Ashes In The Snow. Stories set in Auschwitz have become even more impactful for me after a visit to the camps in 2018, and I had high hopes this translation of an Italian debut would be a winner for me. And I was definitely more than impressed by this story! Ashes In The Snow ended up being a well-researched, thought-provoking and emotional read that will speak to fans of the genre.
The author might be Italian, but this story is set in Auschwitz, Poland. I guess there is a personal reason for this, and it was interesting to read about her motivation for this story. This doesn’t mean that Ashes In The Snow doesn’t have some Italian flavor though, mainly in the form of the young Jewish boy Gioele. I really liked what the parts told from his POV added to the plot, although the story does mainly follow detective Hugo Fischer. Hugo made for a fascinating character and we get to see everything that happens at the camps through his eyes… The descriptions are realistic, harrowing and truly heartbreaking, but like they say when you visit the camps in present day: the past shouldn’t be forgotten.
Ashes In The Snow isn’t your regular WWII fiction story though; the setting might have been done before, but you don’t often see a detective thriller twist in one. Because the main focus of this plot is most definitely on the murder of doctor Braun, and detective Hugo Fischer was called in from Berlin to investigate. True, as Hugo learns more about what exactly is going on at the camps, the story becomes so much more than just the investigation… But Braun’s murder is the red thread the plot is woven around. There are plenty of suspects to keep you busy, and there are also the moral questions including ‘did Braun deserve to die?’ and ‘can you call it a murder in a place where so many innocent die‘?
The writing style was enjoyable, and I liked the way the characters were developed. With their flaws, issues and secrets, they felt realistic and especially Hugo’s development was intriguing to follow. The plot itself is well developed with just enough twists and false leads to keep up the suspense… And I liked how everything was wrapped up in the end. If you enjoy WWII fiction, I can highly recommend Ashes In The Snow!