by Spencer Seidel
Release Date: May 24, 2011
2011 Publishing Works
Softcover Edition; 292 Pages
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
4 / 5 Stars
"Dolly, it's your mother.' Dolly. Jackie Ruth Wynter had called Alice that for years. The conversation that followed led her right back to the place she had run from for years. Her twin brother, younger by just a minute or so, had been fading, transforming into an image of their drunken, narrow-eyed father. Now her father was dead, and her brother, Chris, missing.
Alice resigns herself to return, helping her mother and the local police with the mystery surrounding the crime. But there are some family secrets her mother would sooner take to the grave than reveal. As the authorities come closer to solving the mystery of the men in her family, she begins to realize her past life as Alice Wynter is the missing part of the puzzle. But who is searching out the former Alice?
One of the things I really enjoyed about this novel was the author's use of descriptive language; it swept me into the story rather quickly and seemed to grip me with a ferocity that wouldn't let go until the very end. As usual, I thought I had the who-dun-it figured out rather early on in the novel, but with some rather interesting twists and turns, everything got turned on me, and I learned how wrong I was to assume and how easily I was led by some very clever writing.
Dead of Wynter had some rather unique twists to it that I really enjoyed, one of them being the jump back to 1984 when the events first started. While some people don't enjoy these shifts from one time period to another, they have never bothered me, and I liked learning about the characters and their motives and what drove them to be the way they are in the present. The boys and what they did was a real exercise in psychology and I definitely reminisced about my own high school days and what would cause people to do some of the things that they do, and what would be the catalyst to send someone over the edge to violence. It's so easy to lose communication with someone you love and thought you knew, then realize you never really knew them at all; it's how so many miscommunications begin in the first place. The way a family can fall apart due to so many secrets and lack of communication as well as total mistrust is frightening; what was seething beneath the surface, just waiting to explode, made me leery and made me question my own life and my own communication with my own family. I have to give credit to Mr. Seidel and to his writing ability, as the time shifts felt completely natural and occurred in places in the novel that seemed totally appropriate to advance the events in the novel.
While I enjoyed the story very much, and definitely enjoyed the interaction between the characters, I couldn't personally warm up to the characters in the way I think was intended. Even in a thriller, I need to connect with the main characters, and although this doesn't distract me as much as it would in other genres, I did think of it off and on as I was reading. I remember wondering, Now shouldn't that bother me a little bit more for that character? or Shouldn't I be empathizing for him/her? and I didn't. Some of the characters were dark and cruel and vindictive, and I wanted a little something more from them. I was also somewhat disappointed in the ending as I felt it was rather drawn out and didn't quite have the suspense and thrill the rest of the novel had. While the setting was pretty interesting, deteriorating snow conditions in Maine, something I could picture rather well living in a snow belt myself, there was just something missing in the ending.
Dead of Wynter was a great debut novel from a fantastic writer. The storyline gripped me right from the start, and I really enjoyed the twists and turns of a plotline that definitely caught me off guard from what I thought was the obvious solution. While I thought the ending was lacking a little something, and I didn't feel that connection with the characters, this was still a dark murder/mystery that was enjoyable and I would recommend it to anyone looking for something a little darker. I am looking forward to reading his next novel, Lovesick, to be published in 2012.
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Contest closes 15 June 2011. Contest is open to residents of Canada and the United States.
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