Michael Vyner recalls a terrible story, one that happened to him. One that would be unbelievable if it weren’t true! Michael’s parents are dead and he imagines that he will stay with the kindly lawyer, executor of his parents’ will …Until he is invited to spend Christmas with his guardian in a large and desolate country house. His arrival on the first night suggests something is not quite right when he sees a woman out in the frozen mists, standing alone in the marshes. But little can prepare him for the solitude of the house itself as he is kept from his guardian and finds himself spending the Christmas holiday wandering the silent corridors of the house seeking distraction. But lonely doesn’t mean alone, as Michael soon realises that the house and its grounds harbour many secrets, dead and alive, and Michael is set the task of unravelling some of the darkest secrets of all. This is a nail-biting story of hauntings and terror by the master of the genre, Chris Priestley. (from Amazon.co.uk)
I am not easily scared. There are very few books that can keep me awake at night through terror. With it’s deliciously spine-chilling story, The Dead Of Winter managed that and had me on edge throughout.
Young Michael has lost both his parents and faces orphan hood in Victorian London, but on the day of his mother’s funeral a surprise benefactor is revealed. Michael must go and spend Christmas in his new guardians home, the formidable Hawton Mere. Nervous to meet his new guardian, Sir Stephen, Michael’s apprehension soon turns to terror as he approaches Hawton Mere in a carriage late at night and sees a ghostly woman in the marshes surrounding the stately home. Once inside his fear isn’t abated as he finds Sir Stephen on the edge of insanity and dark secrets lurking in every shadow.
I love a gothic ghost story. There’s nothing better than slipping back into an eerie past and being scared out of your wits. The Dead Of Winter is no disappointment and is gripping throughout.
In a book of this kind perhaps the most important character is the setting itself, and Hawton Mere is a fantastic, creepy mansion harbouring all kinds of secrets. Surrounded by cold dark marshes, Priestly truly sets the scene for a terrifying ghost story in this cold and unforgiving home. The descriptions of the surrounding areas are vivid and I could easily picture it while reading the book.
The characters are also brilliantly crafted and very much of their time. From the mad aristocratic guardian, lurking in every shadow and dripping secrets, to the fiercely loyal servants refusing to abandon the family that has seen such tragedy they are exactly what you want from this genre. Sir Stephen’s sister Charlotte adds a mysterious and complex dimension as you wonder throughout what her role truly is-friend or foe. The language used is authentic and formal as you would expect, but still manages to be incredibly readable and gripping. Rather than alienate, it sucks you right in and you’ll feel you’ve slipped back in time yourself as you read this book.
The Dead Of Winter is a hugely atmospheric book and best read curled up in front of the fire on a dark, windy night. It isn’t a long book and at just over 200 pages is one you will devour in one sitting. I literally couldn’t put it down and had that thrilling edge of your seat feeling throughout with every creak and groan in the house having me jump out of my skin. It’s my favourite kind of horror, suggestive, atmospheric and sinister without being graphic. I’d recommend this book to anyone of any age from Eleven years old who enjoys a good gothic ghost story and especially to reluctant readers as I’m certain even they won’t be able to resist this devilishly delicious tale of horror.
Published in the UK October 2010. Thanks to the publishers for sending me a copy for review.
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