The Winter People
Literary thriller, ghost story, disturbing tale of family bonds and dark deeds, historical novel – all of these apply to McMahon’s latest chilling novel. Katherine and her photographer husband, Gary, are struggling to come to terms with the loss of their only child. Katherine’s mourning is doubled when Gary is killed in a freak car accident, supposedly while on a trip to shoot a wedding. But there was no wedding; he lied to her. And she is desperate to understand why he would drive to remote West Hall, Vermont to meet with a stranger in a dingy cafe. To get to the bottom of the mystery, she hunts for the woman Gary met with on the day he died, and in so doing uncovers a host of bizarre legends that whisper of disappearances, murder, and sightings of creatures called “sleepers.”
The strangest of all of these is the story of Sara Harrison Shea, whose body was found grotesquely mutilated in 1908. Katherine discovers that Sara’s old farmhouse is occupied now by a woman named Alice, who may be the woman Gary had come to see. Alice lives in desperately impoverished conditions with her two daughters, Ruthie and Fawn. But Alice has gone missing, and her daughters have no explanation for where she may have gone. When Ruthie discovers Sara’s diary beneath the floorboards of their cabin, Katherine becomes convinced that the past may hold a link to the present.
As McMahon deftly draws the reader back and forth between events occurring in 1886, 1908, and the present day, the theme of a mother’s bond with her child evolves into a twisted tale of the lengths to which a parent will go to hold onto a young life that has passed. Mystery lovers and literary aficionados alike will relish the suspense and gradual revelation of dark secrets. McMahon’s expert touch with words only makes the trip better.