The Winter Ghosts was my first experience of Kate Mosse, though I have both Labyrinth and Sepulchre somewhere in the stacks but just haven’t got round to them yet. I may have been slightly put off by comments from friends that her writing style wasn’t great and although I don’t usually pay attention to that sort of thing (our tastes are all different after all, and sometimes a story transcends the style in which it was written) it possibly prevented these floating to the top of the TBR pile.

However, I was looking for something reasonably short and suitably wintery to lug around in the old handbag to read on the commute, and this seemed to fit the bill.

So the story is that Freddie Watson is on holiday in the French Pyrenees in winter. Even though its 1928, he is still mourning the loss of his older brother in World War I; he’s emotionally paralysed by his grief, compounded by the fact that his brother’s body was never found so for a long time he didn’t accept that he was dead, and so ended up in a psychiatric hospital. But here he is, after the death of parents who don’t seem to have loved him as much as their dead son, trying to achieve some semblance of normality.

But he hears voices in the mountains, and on a lonely road in the middle of a snowstorm he crashes his car and has to take refuge in a small village where at a feast to mark St Etienne he meets a young, beautiful but sad woman and unburdens himself of his grief and escapes with her when strange events begin to unfold. And of course in the morning he finds himself in his room with no sign that he had been anywhere the night before, and no-one knows who the girl was. A mystery to be unravelled – will he solve it and bring peace to the village and himself?

Of course he will.

I actually rather enjoyed this. It had a nice atmosphere, the story was nicely book-ended and it does have a basis in historical events in the area. It was a nice melancholy read for a dark night; I read it over two sittings and might have enjoyed it more if I had been able to read it all in one, as the atmosphere builds nicely and can get lost if you take a break. It’s not ground-breaking and the central mystery about the girl isn’t in some respects a mystery at all, but the tension where it exists is all about Freddie – will he get to the bottom of things and will it help him?

So on the basis of this I’m going to give her other works a go this year (though having looked at some of the reviews on Amazon I may have to manage my expectations…)

Update: this is part of the TBR challenge – the book has been on my stacks since November 2010.

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