Danya Kukafka’s debut Girl in Snow is a deceptive book. It looks like a psychological thriller, and sounds, at least going by the description, like a psychological thriller. But unfortunately, it doesn’t read like one.
Lucinda, a teenager in a small-town Colorado, is found murdered on a playground carousel. There is no dearth of suspects for the investigating officer, Russel (Russ), to choose from. The first suspect is Cameron, a teenage boy obsessed with Lucinda who stalks her night and day. The second is Lucinda’s ex boyfriend, Edouard a.k.a. Zap. The third is Jade, an overweight teen with an abusive mother who resents Lucinda for taking away everything and everyone that matters to her. The fourth is the night janitor, Ivan Santos, who happens to be his brother-in-law with a prior arrest for dealing drugs. Russ has one additional interest in the case –Cameron, is the son of Russel’s ex-partner Lee. Before he disappeared, he tasked Russ with taking care of Cameron. Also, it is hinted that Lee disappeared because he did something “bad”.
Going by this description, the book promises to be fast-paced, thrilling and full of twists and turns. What we get instead is something knotty and vague. The pace is too leisurely and there is a lack of urgency, which makes one wonder if the book is going anywhere.
We get Cameron, disturbed and agitated because Lucinda is dead and he cannot see her again. Plus, he has no memory of what happened and he has Lucinda’s diary with him. We have Jade, who thinks of herself as a witch who is receiving messages from the dead Lucinda to find out the truth. We have Russ who loves his wife Ines and hates his brother-in-law Ivan; who used to be in love with his ex-partner Lee, and who would rather see Ivan hang than Cameron. The sub-plot about Lee seems superfluous and ultimately has no connection to the central mystery of Lucinda’s death.
One eventually realizes that the murder is the last thing the writer wants to focus on. Instead she uses it as a scaffolding to explore the inner lives of all these characters. We are immersed deeply into their thoughts as they go about their daily lives. This would have been a great way to give us unreliable narrators, and keep us guessing. But that doesn’t happen. In spite of being given so much exposure to them, I ended up caring for none of the characters.
The ending was very predictable, and though it was executed well, it was a disappointment. What I did like about this book is that the language is very atmospheric. It creates sharp images and evokes a tactile experience. But ultimately, the beuatiful writing wasn’t enough. Girl is Snow, unfortunately, wasn’t for me.
Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!
FTC disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for this honest review.