November 5, 2012

Book Review: The Dead of Winter

I'm starting to think Angry Robot Books will never steer me wrong.

I requested a hard copy of Lee Collins's debut novel, The Dead of Winter, when I heard they were available. There was little reason for my request, other than the line: True Grit meets True Blood.

The Dead of Winter
Lee Collins
Angry Robot Books
October 20, 2012
384 pages
Well, ok. I'm still a sucker for a good Western (I know you loved watching Young Riders in the 90s, too, right??). And True Blood is my Sunday night guilty pleasure (oh, Eric, how do I love thee?).

Seemed like a good fit!

Definitely.

Collins's Old West world, a silver-mining boom town outside Denver, Colorado, is dripping with undead creatures. Vampires? Check. Hell hounds? Check. Werewolves, witches, and various other monsters? Check, check, and check.

And in this world, lifelike in its depiction of ultra-masculine marshals and barkeeps and miners, and women who exist solely to pleasure the men, Cora Oglesby is front and center. 

She's coarse. She's brash. She drinks whiskey and spits. And most importantly, she hunts all those nasty spooks and undead critters with her trusty friends, Colt and Winchester, and her husband, Ben. 

She's the expert the beleaguered local marshal, Mart Duggan, calls when an unidentified monster kills some of his townspeople in an especially brutal, bloody way. She's the one who has to find the bad guy and get rid of him, for once and for all. And she's up for the task.

Or is she?

This is...an ambitious novel. Collins has a lot going on. 

He has a host of characters to keep track of: an angry bartender, a beautiful whore, a bizarre Englishman who happens to be a vampire expert, and a kind, loving priest, are just a handful of those minor characters who have a major impact on the story.  I spent a lot of time wondering: will be pull this all together at the end? Will it all work?

The thing is, it does.

There are also a lot of red herrings...maybe I'm just too cynical, but I spent a lot of time being suspicious of even the most obviously good characters. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop from one of their feet.

I won't tell you if any shoes fall. I will, however, tell you that the book will indeed keep you guessing, and that it twists and turns in many, many.

Collins is great at monsters, by the way. He's a throwback writer, really, channeling all the old-time theories on vampire slaying. You know: want to kill a vampire? You need garlic, a good crucifix, and a lot of silver bullets. But I like that. I love the classic vampire flicks. It's nice to read about non-sparkly, non-moon-eyed vampires for a change.

(Although I still love your brooding, Eric Northman...)

The action sequences are exciting. Cora as a strong female character is excellent (if abrasive at times). And Mart Duggan as her foil (brave and strong himself, he's calm and understated, and I like it) is lovely.

All-in-all, I'd call this book an entertaining journey through a much more threatening Old West world. If you like Westerns, and you're into horror, this is totally the book for you.

1 comment:

Christoph Weber said...

I also loved this book. Mad Cora is such a colorful lead character in a twisty and fast-paced story. Make sure you don't miss out on the second book...

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