Danya Kukafka has managed to imbue an air and feel of mystery and suspense with a hint of melancholia in her debut novel Girl in Snow.
Written in the point of view of three characters, the novel explores the life death of Lucinda Hayes through the eyes of Cameron, a distant admirer, Jade, a girl who lost to Lucinda, and Russ, a police officer connected to a few of the suspects and the investigating officer in this case.
Kukafka has written a balanced set of characters major or minor, showing us their beauty and ugliness, their vulnerability, and how their lives changes due to Lucinda’s action, her very presence, and her eventual death.
Lucinda, a popular high school girl, remains the mystery glue, the invisible thread that keeps all the players interlinked with each other. Her actions begin a chain of event in lives associated with her, intimate or not, and we reach a point where every witness/suspect has a motive to cause her harm. Who has the opportunity? That’s for the readers, Lucinda’s schoolmates, and a police officer with a lot of baggage, to find out.
The shift in POV is smooth, clear, and the story progresses with lovely ease of pace, balancing on the delicate threshold of action and emotion. Unreliable narration by one of the POV’s who is a prime suspect is superbly done. I enjoyed Kukafka’s writing style immensely. The air of sadness softly transforms into hope as all the key people find their silver lining at the end of the story. Subtlety is this book’s beauty.
However, as it always happens, I do have some tiny niggles about this book. I found it more general fiction than a mystery novel. The crime was never really in focus as the story was written in multiple POV who expressed a lot of thoughts and feelings that often took our attention away from the murder. The book rushed into a solution too soon, too quick, and the motive and the guilty party never get the desired attention as expected in the genre. I wish the motive and the convict had a little more focus. I wouldn’t mind a little less highlight on pimples and other teenage physical agonies either. But I must remind myself here, that this book is about teenagers and clearly marketed as general fiction/mystery-thriller. So I really shouldn’t complain a lot.
I found the character of Jade very interesting, the way she coaxes Cameron into bringing out memories no matter how sweet or ugly, hence forming the first crack on his shell. I love the idea of keeping the line between the suspects and witnesses blurred for an entire two third of the book. Kukafka is a capable writer no doubt. I hope to read a lot more from her.
A well-rounded four stars to Girl in Snow.
I received an advanced reader copy from Dana Trocker via Netgalley and couldn’t pick it up before December due to personal reasons. I take this opportunity to express my apologies for the delayed review and gratitude for a lovely piece of fiction. I haven’t read a lot of books in the last few months as you can see from the blog updates but this one belongs to the handful of interesting ones I wish I had made time to pick up sooner.
Who Are You When No One Is Watching? (loved this line)
When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both.
In crystalline prose, Danya Kukafka offers a brilliant exploration of identity and of the razor-sharp line between love and obsession, between watching and seeing, between truth and memory. Compulsively readable and powerfully moving, Girl in Snow offers an unforgettable reading experience and introduces a singular new talent in Danya Kukafka.