BY OLINE H. COGDILL

Sun Sentinel

COVER OF SNOW

By Jenny Milchman

Ballantine Books, 336 pages, $26

A young widow’s grief and naivete 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., 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 grief, but the town seems to have changed. Her mother-in-law, with whom she was never close, becomes antagonistic toward her. She can’t seem to go anywhere without being followed by one of Brendan’s fellow cops. Then things, especially Brendan’s mementoes, 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 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? 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.