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Originally published Sunday, February 10, 2013 at 5:06 AM

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‘Cover of Snow’: All not as it seems in a frigid New York town

In her debut novel “Cover of Snow,” Jenny Milchman expertly portrays a young wife whose policeman husband’s apparent suicide unlocks a Pandora’s box of mysteries.

McClatchy Newspapers

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“Cover of Snow’

by Jenny Milchman

Ballantine, 336 pp., $26

A young widow’s grief and naiveté evolve into paranoia and a sense that she has no idea what is really going on in the quiet town where she lives in Jenny Milchman’s stunning debut.

Milchman tackles small-town angst where evil can simmer under the surface with a breathless energy and a feel for realistic characters.

Nora Hamilton has been launching her career as a house restorer in the lovely town of Wedeskyull, N.Y., located in the Adirondacks, where her husband, Brendan, is a policeman. But her life is shattered when she discovers the body of her husband, who has apparently committed suicide in their home. Now Nora not only has to deal with her inconsolable grief, but the peaceful town seems to have changed overnight. Her mother-in-law, with whom she was never close, becomes increasingly antagonistic toward her. She can’t seem to go anywhere without being followed by one of Brendan’s fellow cops or the police chief; their excuse is that they are worried about her mental health. Then little things, especially Brendan’s mementos, are disappearing from her house. As she looks into Brendan’s background, she finds out that she may not have known her husband as well as she thought she did.

In “Cover of Snow,” Milchman expertly shows how Nora, stymied by grief, becomes obsessed with knowing why Brendan killed himself. Had she really not seen that he had been changing in the weeks before his death? Was her marriage not as strong as she thought? Before her husband’s death, Nora had felt safe and secure in the town. The frigid air that blows through the town is the perfect metaphor for Nora’s feelings of isolation.

Milchman’s original approach serves her story well, including the unpredictable resolution. “Cover of Snow” is a good start for the new year.

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