by A. B. Gibson
Kindle Edition, 154 pg.
Read: October 10-11, 2019
I’m going to preface this post with this: The Dead of Winter is not my kind of book. That’s not an evaluative statement—I didn’t read the blurb as carefully as I should’ve, it’s just not the kind of thing I’d typically read. Like collections of haiku, Amish Romances, or Military Fiction. Given that, take what I’m going to say with the appropriately-sized portion of salt, it’s probably better than I think it is.
When I was in junior high/high school, I remembered we’d frequently find ourselves watching some Horror/Thriller kind of movie where a handful of teens/young adults would go on a trip, find themselves in a remote area being terrorized/hunted/killed by locals. Sometimes they’d get away (sometimes they wouldn’t); sometimes they’d stop the locals (sometimes they wouldn’t); more often than not, it’d be a mixture of the two and any victory would be Pyrrhic.
In this case, we have 5 twenty-somethings who agree to meet at the Pumpkin Patch Bed and Breakfast for a weekend of picking apples and pumpkins and having fun with hayrides and the Giant Corn Maze.
One of their number (the one who was supposed to arrive first), isn’t around when the others check-in, they assume she’s uncharacteristically decided to not come at the last minute. Then another guest comes to them with a warning about strange happenings and disappearances around the B&B, which they just laugh off. The hayride features some horror F/X that’s disturbingly real and the scarecrows are dressed really fashionably.
Which gets the friends set on edge and starting to wonder if the other guest was on to something—if only she hadn’t left in the middle of the night so they could ask her some questions.
Before they realize what’s happening, the four are separated and largely isolated; Ma and Pa seem to be less hospitable and down-homey; and their children are less eccentric and not-well-socialized and more menacing and disturbing. Things get worse from there.
The plot was at the same time exactly what you know it’s going to be, yet it kept going in unexpected directions with unexpected results. It plays to the conventions of the genre but not always in the ways you’d predict.
The young professionals and other guests weren’t as fleshed out and developed as you might hope—but they don’t need to be for this kind of story. Their antagonists aren’t either, but they are more multifaceted and are the embodiment of hazardous. Which is exactly what you want.
As I said, the book was never really going to work for me. But it kept me engaged, kept me turning the pages, and kept me wondering just how messed up the ending was going to be (the answer: very). The Dead of Winter didn’t make a fan out of me, but I can easily see where it’d make fans of many other people. I hope it finds its audience—and if you’re the kind of reader who likes this sort of story, you should really give it a shot.
My thanks to Love Books Group for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including the book) they provided.