Friday, 24 September 2010

Review: The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Format: Hardcover
Released: October 4th, 2010
Grade rating: B/B+

Amazon summary:

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.


The Dead of Winter is a creepy story perfect for those readers with an interest in things that go bump in the night. It'll keep you on the edge of your seat while you wonder what will happen next, and uses darkness and tension to its advantage. Michael is a young boy spending his Christmas at Hawton Mere country House, with Sir Stephen and his staff. There's much more to the house than meets the eye, and Michael soon learns the sinister secrets of the past that still haunt the house and its inhabitants.

Chris Priestley writes in a fantastic style, which makes it clear he loves the macabre. Rather than choose a world of gore and physical horror, he uses a much more subtle approach, including flickering lights, strange noises and terrifying apparitions. I find that this approach to horror has more of an impact on me as a reader, as creating a truly scary scene involves a lot more than just blood and violence. An eerie ambiance and tense surroundings creep me out more than severed heads and blood-curdling screams, and The Dead of Winter successfully uses a historical setting to emphasise just how ominous an old house can be.

It did take me a good few chapters to fully get into The Dead of Winter, but once the mystery of Hawton Mere began to unravel, Michael's story drew me in and wouldn't let go until I knew the outcome. Priestly weaves a clever tale that spans decades, and keeps you guessing right until the end. As everything starts to fit into place, you'll find yourself recalling clues you missed previously, and thinking "A-ha!" when you get to the final revelations.

If you're a fan of horror but don't like visual gore and sickening descriptions, The Dead of Winter might just be for you. It's more on the sophisticated side, taking age-old understated horror conventions and using them to tell a twisted story of family secrets and echoes of the past.


Kate Evangelista said...

I like the title, it's a great play on words.

samantha.1020 said...

This sounds like my kind of read...I love when an author creates a creepy atmosphere that pulls me into the story. I'm definitely going to have to check this one out. Great review!

So Many Books, So Little Time said...

This sounds brilliant. I love the sound of his writing style.

Jesse Owen said...

This does sound good, I might give it a go.

asamum said...

This soundsd like one for me - not a great fan of gore but love the chills :D

Andrea said...

Sounds good, but I like to sleep at night so maybe not for me.

Lauren said...

This really does sound tempting. I love being scared and although I'm starting to quite enjoy the gruesome variety (thanks to the fact I live with a horror blogger, I guess), my favourite kind is still the more quietly macabre. I think I'll have to add this one to the wishlist!

healy said...

I recently posted a review about this book and for me it won't let you down and that's a promise=)

ComaCalm said...

I loved Borders... *sob*
Also, I love your blog! :)