A Big Hit, A Small Miss

TITLE: SMILLA'S SENSE OF SNOW

AUTHOR: PETER HOEG, TRANSLATED BY TIINA NUNNALLY

PUBLISHER: FARRAR, STRAUS & GIROUX; 453 PAGES; $21

TITLE: A SIMPLE PLAN

AUTHOR: SCOTT SMITH

PUBLISHER: KNOPF; 335 PAGES; $21

THE BOTTOM LINE: Two ballyhooed books are classic examples of how to -- and how not to -- write a great thriller.

"It's freezing -- an extraordinary 0 degrees Fahrenheit -- and it's snowing, and in the language that is no longer mine, the snow is qanik -- big, almost weightless crystals falling in clumps and covering the ground with a layer of pulverized white frost. December darkness rises...

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