The title of this mystery makes you want to curl up in front of a roaring fire but the suspenseful story will as easily keep you rooted to your beach chair under summer’s noon day sun. The premise is simple, if sad: a young woman wakes to discover that her husband has committed suicide. Distraught and confused, Nora Hamilton sets out to learn why.
Why would Brendan hang himself in the back stairwell of the old frame house they are renting in a picturesque resort town in upstate New York? “Unhappy men commit suicide,” Nora’s tart mother-in-law says. But Nora knows her husband wasn’t unhappy, certainly not with their marriage as his mother implies nor with his job as a police officer on the town’s distinguished force. But in everyone’s life, there lies a secret and in ferreting out Brendan’s past, Nora stumbles on a nasty, tangled undergrowth of lies and deception that festers beneath the surface of the quaint community.
A relative newcomer in an area where family relationships extend back generations and loyalties are strong, Nora finds people reluctant to answer questions or talk about her late husband. Her only allies are a young autistic auto mechanic who speaks in confusing rhymes and a local reporter, another transplant, who seems to attract trouble.
In the snowy world Milchman creates in her debut novel, people move like ghosts and objects fade into onrushing storms. Even the police cars and officers -– both in gray -– add an ominous touch. To Nora, nothing seems clear: whom to trust, where to look for answers. But she persists and doggedly tunnels through a twisting and richly-layered story of secrets and heartache until she arrives at the haunting truth.