Title: The Winter People
Author: Jennifer McMahon
2014 – Fiction – Suspense/Horror/Historical Fiction
Source: Won audio book in Books on Tape giveaway
The Story: When Ruthie’s mother disappears in the middle of the night, Ruthie searches the house for clues to the disappearance. In her mother’s room, she finds a boarded up closet and a loose floorboard concealing two wallets, a handgun, and the diary of Sara Harrison Shea. Everyone in the town knows all about Sara Harrison Shea, how she lost her daughter to a horrific accident, how Sara was later murdered and skinned. And how Sara supposedly brought her daughter back from the dead. As Ruthie becomes engrossed in the diary, she begins to make horrifying connections between the town’s lurid past and her mother’s disappearance.
The Review: I won this audio book back in May, but I specifically saved it for this time of year – the season when days are shorter, nights are colder, and the wind whistling through colorful, falling leaves provides an eerie backdrop to any novel. I love reading spooky stuff in October – if you believe the folklore and legends passed down over centuries, it’s this time of year when the veil between worlds becomes a little thinner. There is magic in the air and I can almost believe that what I’m reading is true.
It didn’t take much for me to get sucked into this story. It begins with a disappearance and a local legend, and only gets spookier from there. This was especially good on audio, as the story surrounded me and pulled me in. I remember heading to game night one evening, listening on the way over and getting to a really suspenseful section. On the way home, however, night had fallen and the story twisted in a way that I never saw coming. I just couldn’t listen anymore, and had to switch my radio over to a nice, cheerful music station. That was the whole timbre of this novel. If not outright scary, the suspense never let up.
The dual narrative between Ruthie’s story in the present and Sara’s story in the past are interwoven beautifully. The reader gets tantalizing chunks of story that are presented as a carrot on a stick, always leading forward with no chance but to helplessly continue to fall under the novel’s spell. With several different perspectives and characters to follow, there was never a shortage of information. I just lacked the ability to put it all together, which to me is a mark of a well-written suspense novel.
By the end I was anxious and terrified, eager for a resolution that made things all better. I’m obviously not going to tell you what happened, but I will say that it wasn’t a nice, neat, happy ending where everything was all sunshine and daisies. And just like I look at showers differently now because of that one scene from Psycho, I will never see an innocent closet the same way again.