When lovely 15-year-old Lucinda Hayes is murdered on a playground in a placid Colorado town, the prime suspect is one of her classmates.
The first of three narrators in Kukafka's debut is the perhaps mentally ill ninth-grader Cameron Whitley. Utterly obsessed with Lucinda, for years he has spent all his time stalking her, drawing her, and thinking about her. He saw her the night of her death, and now he somehow has her purple suede diary, which he puts in his closet along with his Collection of the Pencil Bodies, his Collection of People Who Did Terrible Things, and others. “The only one hidden in his head was the Collection of Statue Nights”—his peeping-Tom forays—“this was his favorite Collection, because it was full of Lucinda.” Well, we readers weren’t born yesterday, so clearly it’s not him. The second narrative perspective belongs to another classmate, Jade, who hates Lucinda for all the reasons any overweight, unhappy, smart teen with an abusive drunk for a mother would hate the most popular girl in school and her Norman Rockwell family. Hopefully that voodoo ritual she performed didn’t actually work. Third narrator: a cop named Russ, who is obsessed with Cameron’s dad, his former partner, not around anymore for some ominous reason which is withheld from the reader for far too long considering it turns out to be irrelevant. Though section titles indicate that the bulk of the action happens over a three-day period, with a denouement weeks later, it feels like much longer. Once you’ve got a murder mystery plot, you can only spend so much time inside people’s heads, going over the same ground.
This 24-year-old writer needs to rein in the prose and crank up the plot. We’ll be watching.