The statement that Snow falling on cedars is "more than just a murder trial" is definitely true as it is in essence a murder mystery but encompasses much more that a simple murder trial. The story itself is based around the death of a local fisherman named Carl Heine and the accusation and subsequent murder trial of Kabuo Miyamoto, a Japanese-American who is also a fisherman and, like Carl, a war veteran. This forms the platform for the plot but the whole story entails much more. The trial is the basis for the story but there are many sub-plots and individual stories in the novel from which the author branches out in several directions giving detailed description of all the smaller and sometimes subtle aspects of the novel.
The story is set on a small and remote island named San Piedro, a small fishing community of five thousand people with a single town named Amity harbour.
It has a ferry terminal, a salmon factory and just a single street with shops and businesses on it. It is described as a beautiful place with picturesque green rolling hills and lush green forests with fields of strawberries and blueberries dotted throughout. The impression given by the author is that it is a sleepy, slow moving kind of place where the people all know one another. The isolation of the island gives rise to the situation where all the residents keep mostly to themselves to avoid confrontation, as they do not want to make enemies in such a small and intimate community.
I think that the vivid description given of San Piedro is an interesting location to set a murder mystery. The fact that it is set in such an unusual place allows the author freedom to expand on the detail of settings...