My personal gauge for a good thriller is when, a few chapters in, I hop onto Google and start stalking the author.
In a psychological thriller market filled with stories of girls gone astray, these books have become almost throwaway in their nature, good for one weekend's entertainment. The fast-paced plot tugs us forward, and then we forget. So it takes a lot to read someone's thriller and think, "Who is writing like this?"
Girl in Snow starts off with a pretty standard premise. Lucinda, the most popular girl in school, is found dead one morning at the local park. Who could have been responsible for such a gruesome murder? Was it Cameron, her obsessive stalker? Jade, her pasty, unpopular polar opposite? And what clues does local cop Russ hold in it all?
However, what makes the book stand out is the exquisite writing. Danya has written a slow-burning, compelling thriller that draws us in through expert character development. I felt genuine compassion for outsiders Cameron and Jade, to the point that I could have excused any wrongdoing. That's not to say the plot didn't deliver - it was the kind of book that lived on in my mind during the day, even when I wasn't reading it. I won't give away any spoilers, but the ending was both shocking and surprisingly heart-warming.
But back to the stalking. Danya Kukafka is a young, debut novelist, whose editing chops got a mention in Paula Hawkins' latest: Into the Water. The fact that she is already part of the literary industry doesn't surprise me in the slightest. After a few months of working with my incredible agents on editing my own work, I understand that being in the industry gives you an intuition for what makes a good story stand out. This knowledge, in addition to a natural lyricism in her writing, makes Danya an author to watch!
Girl in Snow is perfect for readers of Tana French and other character-driven, psychological thrillers. It's out today, and you can buy it here.