cover image Girl in Snow

Girl in Snow

Danya Kukafka. Simon & Schuster, $26 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5011-4437-0

Kukafka’s debut is set in 2005, unspooling in the days after 15-year-old Lucinda Hayes is found murdered at a playground in her Colorado suburb. Suspicion immediately falls on Cameron Whitley, an artsy loner who spends his nights wandering the neighborhood, watching Lucinda and her family from their front yard. But there are other suspects, too, like Ivan, the ex-con school janitor, and Zap, Lucinda’s ex-boyfriend. Consisting of alternating chapters following Cameron; officer Russ Fletcher, who was once work partners with Cameron’s estranged policeman father; and Jade Dixon-Burns, a gloomy teen dabbling in the occult and aspiring to be a writer, the novel digs into each character’s history while offering up a fair number of red herrings regarding the identity of the murderer. These histories occasionally distract from the mystery of Lucinda’s killer, yet Kukafka’s clever narrative tricks, like Jade’s tendency to imagine conversations in the form of screenplays and Cameron’s inability to remember large swaths of time around the murder, propel the narrative forward. And while the novel employs a full checklist of teen tropes throughout, from abusive parents to fractured love triangles, there is enough narrative muscle to compel the reader to stick with it until the end. Agent: Dana Murphy, the Book Group. (Aug.)