STARRED REVIEW
August 01, 2017

Who killed Lucinda Hayes?

By Danya Kukafka
Review by

Combining elements of Bill Clegg’s Did You Ever Have a Family with Dennis Lehane’s contemporary classic Mystic River, Danya Kukafka’s debut novel is an intricate, seductive murder mystery, in which a single awful crime exposes conflicts and traumas in an entire community.

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Combining elements of Bill Clegg’s Did You Ever Have a Family with Dennis Lehane’s contemporary classic Mystic River, Danya Kukafka’s debut novel is an intricate, seductive murder mystery, in which a single awful crime exposes conflicts and traumas in an entire community.

“When they told him Lucinda Hayes was dead,” Girl in Snow begins, “Cameron thought of her shoulder blades and how they framed her naked spine, like a pair of static lungs.” Thus, Kukafka plunges us into the story: Lucinda is dead, though it turns out this high school beauty is not quite the angel everyone remembers her to be. Then there’s Cameron, the creepy kid next door, who peeked though Lucinda’s windows (and worse), making him a likely suspect in the crime. Told largely over the course of a few winter days following Lucinda’s murder, Girl in Snow unfolds through deftly alternating chapters, through the eyes of many different characters. There’s Jade, an angry misfit with an abusive mother who disliked Lucinda. And Russ, a police officer with secrets. And Lee, another cop and Cameron’s absentee father, accused of his own violent crime.

Digging deeply into each of these lives paints a vivid, compelling canvas. Kukafka makes it seem eminently plausible for several of these characters to have killed Lucinda. “Everyone’s looking for the truth,” Jade thinks at one point. “I’m so afraid I’ll have to pry open its grave.”

Girl in Snow may not quite be perfect. Some sections are a tad breathlessly overwritten, and one (or two) of the many secrets that spill out may stretch the bounds of credulity for some readers. But overall, Girl in Snow is not just an impressive debut but one of the best literary mysteries to come along in some time.

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Girl in Snow

Girl in Snow

By Danya Kukafka
Simon & Schuster
ISBN 9781501144370

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