Bitter cold. Wild animals. Running out of food. Turning into a monstrous cannibal. These are all things you need to fear when trapped in an Ontario outpost in the middle of winter. At least you do if you inhabit the world of Brian Moreland’s horror novel, Dead of Winter.
Title: Dead of Winter
By Author: Brian Moreland
Paperback: 328 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Available on Amazon in paperback. You can find it at other online and offline booksellers, as well.
Summary of Dead of Winter
In the winter of 1870, at a remote fur-trading outpost, people are disappearing. One body is found ripped in half, her body frozen by the shore of the frozen river. Something taller than a grizzly cleaved her body in two and left claw marks on the nearby trees.
There have also been reports of cannibalism, so Tom Hatcher … the man who caught the Cannery Cannibal of Montreal is brought in to find the culprit (or culprits) and unravel the mystery.
But things aren’t all that they seem. This plague of cannibalism is not a physical virus, but a disease of the soul. Even the dogs and goats can catch it. (The scene in which goats feast on their caretaker and then one of there own could keep you up nights.)
Soon, a Catholic exorcist is called in to help. Father Xavier has battled demons for a long time, inspired by the possession of his sister when he was little. He was even called in to exorcise the Cannery Cannibal himself … but failed.
The local Ojibwa and Cree people fear it is the return of the winter wendigo. Father Xavier believes it is demon possession. But what if it is both?
What Worked for Me
Moreland deftly blends Algonquian legend with Catholic belief, creating a spiritual plague and villain that is more chilling than either belief system had created on their own. Wendigos are cannibalistic spirits who can possess a human if he resorts to eating human flesh … even to save his own life. They are ravenous, gaunt, and superhumanly tall. Demon possession often happens when a person is corrupt or spiritually weak.
Blending elements of gothic family curses, remote snowed-in horror, and serial killer suspense, Dead of Winter pulls you in and keeps you guessing at how the many storylines will eventually fit together. No one is completely innocent of sin … even the heroes. It is love and faith that prevail in the end … that, and accepting one’s true nature.
What Didn’t Work for Me
There are several slow sections of the book that you have to wade through to get to the good stuff.
Dead of Winter starts out strong and ends with a gripping, edge-of-your-seat climax. Twists, turns and unexpected affiliations revealed at the end surprise you. Unfortunately, you have to read through a few slow chapters here and there in the middle to get from beginning to end. The eye of the storm lasts a bit longer than it should. But keep reading … you will be rewarded.
Score for Dead of Winter: 4 Palm Trees out of 5 Possible
NOTE: Although I received this book free to review, that did not affect my opinion of the book. Read past reviews of books I’ve received for free and you’ll know I don’t hold my punches.