Snowblind by Christopher Golden

snowblind

by Christopher Golden

reviewed by Michelle Richmond

It is the dead of winter, and the small New England town of Coventry is bracing for a blizzard. By the time the apocalyptically brutal storm has passed, many of Coventry’s citizens will be dead or vanished. Among the victims is little Isaac Schapiro, whose brother Jake laughed off Isaac’s terrified description of the Ice Men, until he realized that the phantoms Isaac saw in the wind outside their window were real. Niko Ristani, who is engaged to Isaac’s mother Allie, is also dead. Some of the lost citizens of Coventry suffered violent, inexplicable injuries; others simply vanished into the storm.

Twelve years later, the loved ones of the dead and missing have repaired their lives to varying degrees, moving on but rarely flourishing. Several of the living are shrouded in guilt. Police Detective Joe Keenan is haunted by his failure to save a young boy who was electrocuted while out sledding, and still confounded by the disappearance of the boy’s father. Doug Manning, who didn’t make it home to save his wife Cherie, has turned to a life of petty crime.  TJ, a musician, left his mother on her own that night to be with a woman named Ella on whom he’d long had a crush. Now, TJ’s marriage to Ella is crumbling.

As the new monster storm descends upon Coventry, those who remember the earlier blizzard that cost their town so much shudder at the memories. And then strange things begin to happen. A family of three crashes into the frozen river, but the body of the couple’s young son is nowhere to be found. Eleven-year-old Grace, TJ’s daughter, begins acting so strangely that he hardly recognizes her. A young police officer named Torres seems bent on reminding Keenan of his failure to save the life of the young Wexler boy. Miri Ristani receives a phone call from her dead father.

Snowblind builds with a sure, inescapable tension that will keep readers turning pages. One feels deeply for the characters, particularly Jake, as they face their individual and all-too-real demons. The climactic spirits-versus-humans fight scene that plays out over dozens of pages seems designed for the big screen and may cause some readers to toss the book aside in frustration. That said, readers who buy into the bigger-than-your-average-ghost fantasy will race to the end to find out what becomes of these broken, courageous characters. In Snowblind, Golden has created a terrifying, utterly gripping modern-day ghost story that will force  you to consider the choices you would make if someone you loved, and tragically lost, were to suddenly appear on your doorstep.

St. Martin’s Press, January 21, 2014  ISBN 978-1250015310

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Reviewed by Michelle Richmond, New York Times bestselling author of The Year of Fog and Golden State.

Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman

Cover of SnowJenny Milchman’s debut novel, Cover of Snow, will likely please fans of cold-weather crime writers like Arnaldur Indridason (Arctic Chill) and Camilla Lackberg (The Ice Princess).

When Nora Hamilton discovers her cop husband Brendan dead of an apparent suicide in the home they share in the small town of Wedeskyull, NY, the police force she has long trusted quickly rallies around her. But as the unlikelihood of his suicide nags at her, Nora begins to question the omnipotence of third-generaton police chief Vern Weathers, known to everyone simply as Chief, and his band of loyal officers–including the trigger-happy Club Mitchell and the aptly if obviously named Tim Lurquer.

Bombarded by questions about Brendan’s past, Nora must face how little she really knew about him. Much of the plot hinges on the death of Brendan’s little brother in a tragic accident when Brendan was just a child. The description of the aftermath of the child’s death, perceived through photographs at a distance of more than two decades by Nora, who never knew him, is brilliantly and chillingly executed.

Readers may be puzzled by Nora’s lack of curiosity, which, though key to the plot, sometimes feels strained. It seems implausible that she would never have heard about the worst and most talked-about tragedy the town ever suffered, particularly when her own husband was at the center of it. It’s a minor complaint, however, in what ultimately is a very compelling mystery.

Milchman excels in unexpected moments, such as when she describes Nora’s sister’s stiflingly hot New York City apartment:

Teggie’s bedroom was as sweltering as the cramped rest of her apartment. I went back to the bed, crawled across it, and tugged at a window. It opened with a sticky separation of paint, and the volume of the city instantly increased.

The author clearly knows the frozen landscape that serves as backdrop to her story. The characters are frequently seen sliding down banks of ice, scraping it off their windows, or hiking over hills of snow. Milchman masterfully describes the ice-bound setting in the way that only someone who truly lives it can. Like the best Nordic crime thrillers, the novel succeeds in making you feel very, very cold.

Milchman also displays a keen eye for character. Characters who might be mere plot devices in a lesser thriller are thoughtfully rendered here. There is Chief, who rules over the town like a not-always-benevolent father, firm in the belief that he is called upon to protect his flock, and that too many rules and regulations only get in the way. His junior officers’ devotion to him feels entirely real, and the ways in which he is tangled up with members of the community, including Brendan’s Aunt Jean, becomes clearer and more menacing as the novel progresses.

Another fascinating character is Dugger, an autistic man who has been recording the town in images and sound for nearly three decades. Dugger’s photos and audio recordings lend an intriguing and essential layer to the plot.

But the real triumph of Milchman’s first novel is the pacing. The plot unfolds at an excellent clip, stalling in just the right moments, lingering on characters long enough for us to get to know them, ultimately rushing headlong to a series of startling revelations. I found myself completely wrapped up in the story, unwilling to put the novel down until I had reached the fascinating and unexpected conclusion.

Ballantine Books, Jan. 2013 ISBN 978-0345534217

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year of fog coverMichelle Richmond is the author of the international bestseller The Year of Fog, the novels No One You Know and Dream of the Blue Room, and the award-winning story collection The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress. Visit her at http://michellerichmond.com.

If you like Cover of Snow, you might also like Arctic Chill (Arnaldur Indridason), The Ice Princess (Camilla Lackberg), and Sun Storm (Asa Larsson).

Touch & Go by Lisa Gardner

Lisa Gardner’s latest thriller, Touch & Go, opens with the kidnapping of the wealthy Denbe family–the parents and a teenaged daughter–from their home. The investigation is complicated by the fact that the family are such pillars of the community that no one wants to step on their toes, and the company they own has hired its own investigator. Some posturing ensues–whose jurisdiction is it, just who gets to touch what evidence–though ultimately, the various parts find a way to work together.

The large cast of characters includes the secretive family members, a bunch of bad-ass kidnappers, D.D. Warren (whom Gardner fans will recognize from the eponymous series),  and another recurring character, Tessa Leoni from Love You More. Added to the mix is a sheriff named Wyatt Foster. Gardner is masterful, of course, at creating suspense, and Touch & Go is no exception. While the characters at times feel like parodies, this is nonetheless a fun ride, a well-plotted pot-boiler that will keep you turning pages.

Buy the book.

 Dutton Adult

ISBN-13: 978-0525953074