Author: Chris Priestley
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. A nail-biting story of hauntings and terror by the master of the genre, Chris Priestley.
With halloween on the horizon I felt ready for a bit of a creepy read and who best to turn to than Chris Priestley – his tales of terror are some of favourite books in this kind of genre and I loved Mister Creecher.
The Dead of Winter felt very similar – the best way I can describe it is that it’s told in the past tense. Although the main character, Michael is a child when the action occurs – it’s told from when he’s older.
The story tells the tale of Michael as he is sent to his guardian’s home for Christmas. Like all good creepy houses, the house is one of those that doesn’t particularly give out a welcoming vibe. I did feel a little sorry for him having to spend Christmas in this desolate place especially when a perfectly comfortable alternative arrangement with the lawyer who has been looking after him to date is available.
His stay at Hawton Mere was not exactly a pleasant experience. His guardian – Sir Stephen was scarcely around – nor was his sister Charlotte. He was left mostly to his own devices which did beg the question why was he needed there in the first place.
It did however give him a chance to explore the house – something I expect Michael wishes he hadn’t. He discovers rooms which harbour dark secrets and things that go bump in the night. The tale of the priest hole is something to look out for.
I can’t ignore Hodges though, he was first and foremost a servant but one who did seem to mind what happened to Michael and not push him to one side like Charlotte and the almost never around mysterious Sir Stephen. The cook also made him feel at home. I don’t believe I can say these as special mentions as they are without doubt my favourite characters in the book.
You might ask if it wasn’t the creepy-ness that kept me reading what did? Honestly it was the mystery – there was something to solve and once that kicked in there was no way I was going to put the book down without finding out what had happened – and the payoff at the end was worth it.
The Dead of Winter was less creepy than I was expecting and it did take me a little longer than normal to get into but it does have a nice mystery to solve and it is unmistakably Chris Pristley – if you’ve loved his other books I’m sure you’ll enjoy this.
Thanks to Bloomsbury for sending me a copy.