It's always interesting picking up an author for the first time - wondering if it will be worth the time to try her or him out, hoping that you hold an excellent book in your hands so that you can chase up that author's back catalogue, worrying whether you should have gone with Known Author A or B instead ... So it was with Brian Moreland's Dead of Winter for me. A horror novel that manages to weave curses, cannibals, supernatural entities, demons, resurrections, exorcisms, secret societies, and Indian folklore into its lengthy number of pages.
The novel starts at a frenetic pace. A bevy of characters are introduced, some are killed off, an exorcism takes place, and what seemed to be one of the main plotlines is quickly resolved. In fact, everything was happening so fast that I began to wonder how Moreland could possibly string things out for another 250 pages. And truth be told, this was probably the novel's biggest weakness. So much happens early on that when the inevitable lull in the narrative comes, it was oddly jarring for me, and felt like it took an inordinate number of pages before things of consequence started happening again.
That said, when they do commence happening, everything kicks back into high gear very fast, allowing for the conclusion of Dead of Winter to tie all the disparate threads together in a manner that should satisfy most horror fans.
Moreland writes in crisp, clean prose that is eminently readable, and it was this writing that carried me through the novel's slower parts. His characterisations are not quite up to the same standard, however, with some falling into generic territory, while their relationships sometimes felt forced and less than authentic (at least to me). As this is a horror read, those who enjoy bloodshed can rejoice as they will find more than their fair share of death and dismemberment here.
So, in the end, Dead of Winter had its good and not-quite-so-good points. It may not have struck me in the way I was hoping as I picked up a first time author, but I did not regret bypassing Known Author A or B for this read. In fact, it demonstrated enough promise that I plan on seeking out more of Moreland's work in the foreseeable future.
3 Spoonfuls of Oddly Tasty Stew for Dead of Winter.
The preceding honest review was based on an electronic copy of the novel provided by Samhain Publishing through Netgalley.