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Monday, January 21, 2013

Review: Cover of Snow

Title: Cover of Snow
Author: Jenny Milchman
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: 
 January 15, 2013
Reviewer: Ethan

Summary: 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.

Review: If first impressions truly make or break your opinion, then you may be turned off by Jenny Milchman's debut novel, Cover of Snow. As I began reading, I was attracted to the main premise. The problem, however, lied in the writing itself. It seemed that Milchman felt it necessary to include detailed descriptions, similes and analogies in nearly every sentence. Details can be helpful, but too much of a good thing can be overkill. Add to this the cold, seemingly two-dimensional characters, and you can begin to understand why this novel opened with a bitter taste. To use one of the author's devices, reading the opening of the novel was like fining a bone in the first course of a meal.

Despite this, the premise of the story is very intriguing. Nora Hamilton wakes up to an empty bed and immediately knows that something is wrong. Her husband is a police officer in their small town, and always follows a morning routine. When she doesn't hear the shower running, and notices that she overslept, she is certain something terrible has happened. Her world comes crashing down when she discovers her husband hanging from a light fixture.

With no note left, and no actions that would have indicated her husband's willingness to take his own life, Nora struggles to find answers. As she begins to dig into the last weeks of her husband’s life, she soon realizes how little she really knew of the man. Even worse, he seems to have been part of a larger conspiracy that dates back over twenty-five years. Nora soon finds herself in a race to reveal the truth behind her husband's death before those responsible silence her as well.

The opening of this novel just didn't work for me. Writing style aside, I felt zero sympathy for Nora, whose husband had just committed suicide. Instead of being the sensitive widow that I expected from the situation, Nora came off as a callous, unfeeling woman who, despite the efforts of the author to convince me otherwise, was emotionally unaffected by her husbands death. Therefore, when she decided to find reasoning behind the suicide, I didn't really care to know how it occurred.

Fortunately, there is a silver lining of promise to this novel. After the excruciating first third, Milchman begins to take a much more direct approach to her writing, giving this thriller, the pace that it desperately needs. As Nora digs deeper into her husband's death, we are given the suspense, thrills, and intrigue that the excellent premise warrants. The ending, while a bit preposterous, really satisfied, and I was pleased that I continued to read the entire novel. Of course, the latter half of the book still contained a few cringe worthy descriptions, but the action and suspense had picked up to a level that made me disregard the author's shortcomings. While Cover of Snow is no masterpiece, it does provide enough intrigue to serve as an entertaining afternoon read. Author Jenny Milchman still has some growing to do, but I'm interested in seeing what she comes up with next.

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