(Elliot Ross/Courtesy Simon and Schuster)

A high school student has been murdered in Danya Kukafka’s debut novel “Girl in Snow.” The girl's body is discovered in a playground in the fictional town of Broomsville, Colorado.

A young man who stalked the victim quickly becomes a suspect. He acts like a creep, but he's surprisingly likeable and tender. Meanwhile, the officer investigating the crime grapples with a different loss. His best friend and fellow cop has fled town after serious misconduct.

"Girl In Snow" ponders whether you can still be a good person if you've done something really bad.

Kukafka, who grew up in Fort Collins, speaks with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner.

Read an excerpt:

Courtesy Simon and Schuster

Day One
FEBRUARY 16, 2005

When they told him Lucinda Hayes was dead, Cameron thought of her shoulder blades and how they framed her naked spine, like a pair of static lungs.

They called an assembly.
The teachers buzzed against the far wall of the gymnasium, checking their watches and craning their necks. Cameron sat next to Ronnie in the top corner of the bleachers. He bit his fingernails and watched everyone spin about. His left pinky finger, already cracked and dry, began to bleed around the cuticle.
“What do you think this is for?” Ronnie said. Ronnie never brushed his teeth in the morning. There were zits around the corners of his mouth, and they were white and full at the edges. Cameron leaned away.
Principal Barnes stood at the podium on the half-court line, adjusting his jacket. The ninth-grade class snapped their gum and laughed in little groups, hiking up their backpacks and squeaking colorful shoes across the gymnasium floor.
“Can everyone hear me?” Principal Barnes said, hands on each side of the podium. He brushed a line of sweat from his forehead with his sleeve, squeezed his eyes shut.
“Jefferson High School is in the midst of a tragedy,” Principal Barnes said. “Last night, we were forced to say good-bye to one of our most gifted students. It is with regret that I inform you of the passing of your classmate, Miss Lucinda Hayes.”
The microphone shrieked, crackled.
In the days following, Cameron would remember this as the moment he lost her. The hum of the overhead fluorescent lights created a rhythm in time with the whispers that blossomed from every direction. If this moment were a song, Cameron thought, it would be a quiet song—the sort of song that drowned you in your own miserable chest. It was stunning and tender. It dropped, it shattered, and Cameron could only feel the weight of this melody, this song that felt both crushing and delicate.
“Fuck,” Ronnie whispered. The song built and built and built, a steady rush.
It took Cameron six more seconds to notice that no one had a face.
He leaned over the edge of the bleachers and vomited through the railings.
Last night:

Almond eyes glaring out onto the lawn. A pink palm spread wide on Lucinda’s bedroom window screen. The clouds overhead, moving in fast, a gray sheet shaken out over midnight suede.

From "Girl in Snow" by Danya Kukafka. Copyright © 2017 by Danya Kukafka. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.