Bottom Line: Engaging and enjoyable but ultimately predictable.
“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.”
Thoughts: Jenny Milchman’s debut novel, Cover of Snow, has all of the elements required in a thriller – secrets and more secrets, a clueless hero figure who learns her true mettle, friends/family with secret agendas, and a tragedy to kick off the proceedings. Together, they make for a novel that is interesting, engaging, and a quick read that requires very little from the reader.
Plausibility is a key element to any great thriller. Unfortunately, there are elements of Cover of Snow that test that plausibility. Cops who know where everyone is at any given point in time, even if they are several counties away, certain extreme reactions to events, one too many coincidences – taken one at a time, they might be tenable, but combined together, they do nothing but add an unrealistic note to the proceedings.
In addition, all of the archetypes are there – the loving motherly figure hiding a secret, the best friend with a hidden agenda, the weather as a character, cops with a dark side, the goofy but lovable sidekick who slides under the radar and therefore knows things he shouldn’t. While always effective, combined with the more extreme aspects of the story, their existence further strains a reader’s credulity.
Nora is a very traditional heroine, happy and content until her life is brutally shattered by the loss of her husband. Like so many heroines before her, she refuses to believe the official story, and it is her quest for answers that drives the novel. Unfortunately, there is very little connection between Nora and the reader. She is ultimately is too flat, too undeveloped, and too one-dimensional for a reader to really understand who she is and why she would fight for answers. In addition, this dissociation emphasizes the predictability of the story, as a reader can all too easily see which direction the story will take rather than focus on Nora’s plight.
Cover of Snow is a decent thriller with one too many elements that required a suspense of belief to become a truly outstanding one. The overly familiar characters and plot points, while still effective, do nothing to take the story to that next, buzzworthy level. The lack of originality does not prevent a reader from enjoying the story though. It remains an exciting and fun read that will help a reader while away a wintry afternoon.