Red Leaves

Karen Matheson/ Ailein Duinn

On a New England college campus, the naked body of a beautiful student is found frozen in a bank of snow. Why had she not even been reported missing by her friends?

Spencer O’Malley, the police detective assigned to the case, is soon drawn into the disturbing world of four friends, Jim, Conni, Albert and Kristina. O’Malley finds that these children of privilege who played, studied, and occasionally slept together also kept secrets of their own, secrets that must be pieced together to form an entirely new picture.

O’Malley is a stranger in this Ivy League environment, yet he feels an affinity with the victim. In her death, he gradually discovers the truth of her mysterious and complex life, and each revelation is more shocking than the last.

Suspenseful, claustrophobic and utterly compelling, Red Leaves puts Paullina Simons in the very front rank of contemporary writers.



"After her heralded but somewhat overwritten first novel, Tully, Simons has sharpened her craftsmanship to produce this suspenseful work about four friends at Dartmouth College whose close relationship is coming apart. The disintegration doesn't appear mortal, but it is. During a cold Thanksgiving weekend and its aftermath, Kristina, Jim, Conni and Albert study, play and occasionally sleep together, passionately addicted to each other's company. When Kristina's nude and frozen body is found in a snowbank, having been concealed there for some days, young small-town detective Spencer O'Malley investigates her death. He is drawn into the group's games and lies just as he was drawn to Kristina's compelling liveliness when he met her the day before she was killed. Why did her best friends fail to report her missing? Their answers to his fervent questions reveal a network of hidden secrets and jealousies that have long existed among them. But the hardly surprising solution to the crime doesn't appear until three years later, when the full significance of the title becomes clear. The narrative has striking similarities to the events in Donna Tartt's The Secret History, but Simons is not as fluent a writer, nor does the plot carry the philosophical resonance of Tartt's more sophisticated work. Yet Simons handles her characters and setting (both the New Hampshire campus and the moneyed neighborhoods of Greenwich, Conn.) with a certain skill, creating mystery from the ordinary, protected lives of these Ivy League kids, slowly peeling away their deceptions to reveal denial, cowardice and chilling indifference. In doing so, she tells an often engrossing story." Publishers Weekly