by Jenny Milchman
Ballantine Books, ISBN 978-0345534217
January 15, 2013, 336 pages
"Waking up one wintry morning in her old farmhouse nestled in the Adirondack Mountains of New York, Nora Hamilton instantly knows that something is wrong. When her fog of sleep clears, she finds her world is suddenly, irretrievably shattered: Her husband, Brendan, has committed suicide.
The first few hours following Nora’s devastating discovery pass for her in a blur of numbness and disbelief. Then, a disturbing awareness slowly settles in: Brendan left no note and gave no indication that he was contemplating taking his own life. Why would a rock-solid police officer with unwavering affection for his wife, job, and quaint hometown suddenly choose to end it all? Having spent a lifetime avoiding hard truths, Nora must now start facing them.
Unraveling her late husband’s final days, Nora searches for an explanation—but finds a bewildering resistance from Brendan’s best friend and partner, his fellow police officers, and his brittle mother. It quickly becomes clear to Nora that she is asking questions no one wants to answer. For beneath the soft cover of snow lies a powerful conspiracy that will stop at nothing to keep its presence unknown . . . and its darkest secrets hidden."
OK, I admit, it sounds good. And while I had not read the blurbs when I requested it, reading them when I got the book set me up to think I was going to love this debut effort of the author. Lee Child...Harlan Coben...Louise Penny...Laura Lippmann..Linwood Barclay..all with lavish praise.
And the author is from NJ!
Then why did I not love this one?
For me, the first problem was that we never get to know Brendan. He is dead on the first page and all we have is Nora's memories, which seem to have some huge gaps. Did she really know this guy at all? And since I don't feel I know him, it was hard for me to get emotionally involved.
While the story has some aspects of a good psychological thriller, I also found many aspects of the plot did not ring true. Her reaction to her husband's death seems a bit underwhelming.
The reaction of some guilty parties..I will not tell you of what they might be guilty... in the town seems too extreme and so over the top as to stretch the limits of believability.
When I find myself saying "Really? Really!?", that is not a good thing. Maybe there is just one too many mysteries here, all neatly tied together, for my taste. And maybe one or two too many fires. Really.
And that nice, hunky guy waiting on the sidelines to help the brand new widow. Really?! Really?!
The final explanation of Brendan death had me shaking my head.."Oh, come on, really?"
And finally, I found the writing rather awkward. It first I thought it was me. I had to reread a sentence, a paragraph, too many times, to follow what was being said. I can forgive a lot if the writing flows smoothly but that was not the case for me here.
It is a shame, because there are aspects of the book that I liked. Give me a pile of snow, an extreme, cold setting and I am there. I think it can add a great deal to the atmosphere of a mystery. For me, that was maybe the most enjoyable part of the book. And this book succeeds, it least in the beginning of the story, in establishing a nice eerie, rather creepy feeling. But sadly it did not last as the story unfolded, the opposite of what I would hope for.
My thanks to the publisher and Library Thing Early Reviewers
for providing a review copy of this book.