The Winter Ghosts

Written by Kate Mosse
Review by Pamela Ferrell Ortega

The Winter Ghosts is a thrilling mystery and fantasy.  Ten years after the end of World War I, Freddie Watson is unable to shake off the deep depression and survivor’s guilt he has struggled with since the death of his adored older brother in a French battlefield.  To recover from a physical and emotional breakdown, he takes a winter road trip in the French Pyrenees.  When his car slides off an isolated road, he stumbles upon an ancient village in preparation for its annual medieval saint’s feast, honoring the village’s tragic past.  It is at this feast that he meets the lovely, hauntingly perceptive Fabrissa, whose sadness surpasses even his.

This is the point where the novel and Freddie come alive with the energy of the medieval celebration and with the mysteries and tragedies of the past.  The area was the home of the surviving, persecuted Cathar populations in the 13th and 14th centuries, before the last worshippers of this heretical Christian sect were finally murdered either individually in the Inquisition or en masse.  As Freddie’s life becomes enmeshed for one night with Fabrissa’s, so do the horrible tragedies of their different centuries, leading to a startling conclusion.

Although the novel begins slowly in the miasma of Freddie’s depression, its story quickly grabs hold of the reader and does not disappoint.  Highly recommended.