Salla Simukka’s 2015 As Black as Ebony is the third and (if trilogy is to retain any meaning) final book in her Snow White Trilogy1.
Lumikki Andersson has returned from a diverting summer holiday in Prague to her parents and home in Finland. Her attempts to lose herself on the stage and in the arms of her new boyfriend Sampsa are doomed before they begin. She is haunted by the mystery she encountered in Prague: how can an only child like Lumikki have had a sister? Why can’t Lumikki remember her? Why are there no photos of the sister? Why have her parents never mentioned her?
And, of course, there’s the lunatic stalking Lumikki.
Sampsa is a nice enough fellow and Lumikki enjoys her time with him, even though he’s nowhere as alluring as Lumikki’s ex Blaze. Alluring but self-centered: Blaze abruptly dumped Lumikki when she became unnecessary baggage. Blaze would have to be some kind of smug and heartless bastard to think he could get Lumikki back just by snapping his fingers.
As it turns out, Blaze is just that kind of smug and heartless bastard.
As diverting as the romantic triangle would be under other circumstances, Lumikki is dealing with a much more pressing matter: a stalker is texting her incessantly. Whoever the person at the other end of the phone is, they are intimately familiar with Lumikki’s life, to the point of knowing things that even Lumikki didn’t know before the stalker revealed them. The stalker seems to know everything about the mysterious sister … and is using that to torment Lumikki.
And there’s even more. The stalker threatens: if Lumikki doesn’t do as she’s told, if she dares to go to the authorities … then people are going to start dying.
First off, *wow*, Blaze is a monumental ass. But also a teenager, so maybe I should cut him some slack. Hrm, no, I am going to stick with “arrogant jerk whose ideal romantic partner is a nice mirror.”
(Sampsa, on the other hand, seems to be proof that nature doesn’t abhor a vacuum.)
I was so sure that the first book’s villain, Polar Bear, would reappear in this book … but I was wrong. It seems that Lumikki’s intersection with the seedy drug world was a one-time deal. (Although she has kept in touch with Elisa, the friend she made during that adventure. It says something about Lumikki’s talent for friendship that she also stays in touch with Lenka from the second novel.). In this book we get a pair of personal mysteries: what happened to Lumikki’s sister Rose and who is the stalker? Both of which are solved by the end of the book, because in the mystery genre, even series books have to work as standalones. Would that the authors of some interminable SFFnal series were to live by such a rule …
I was disappointed to find that I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the first two. The first book was a bit uneven; this is more so. Moreover, there’s a problem with the prose; this translation feels a lot less adept than the first two. Owen Witesman translated all three, so I am at loss to explain why this book reads as if it had been rushed into English.
(It’s also really, really short. Almost novella short. But I am not sure anything would have been gained from making it longer.)
Still, if you’ve been reading a lot of spec fic and want to see what it looks like when an author actually ends a series (and does so without the odd five or ten or thirty year gap between volumes) … or if you’re looking for a light mystery about troubled teens, romantic triangles, and vanished sisters, you could do a lot worse than reading the Snow White Trilogy.
1: Mind you, there is lots of room for a second trilogy.