I think it’s fair to say that The Dead of Winter is one of the very best ghost stories that I have ever read, and I say that as someone who thoroughly enjoyed and was totally creeped out by Dark Matter earlier this year. And it’s not just that I am a huge Chris Priestley fan, having read his three books of Terrible Tales (see here, here and here), though of course I am. I just loved this well-written, perfect, little tale.
This is the tale of Michael Vyner, looking back as an adult at the Christmas he spent with his guardian in his isolated East Anglian house, Hawton Mere, and the terrible events that unfolded there. Michael is not there out of choice; his mother has just died, and Sir Stephen is someone he wants nothing to do with – he is bitter that his father was killed saving Sir Stephen while they served together in the army and Michael believes that the wrong man died. But he is a young boy with no other family and reluctantly accedes to his mother’s dying wish that he allow Sir Stephen to give him a new start in life. But Hawton Mere hides a dreadful secret…..
And that’s all I’m going to say because anything more would just spoil it.
This is just smashing, I read it virtually in one sitting and it was totally satisfying as a ghostly tale, very traditional and I mean that in a good way. It’s set in the Victorian period and has everything you might expect – friendly servants, an aloof but actually rather nice lawyer, the strange guardian and his devoted sister, and mysterious goings on some of which are pretty scary. I keep on wanting to compare it to both MR James and The Woman in Black, all for the very best reasons, but that’s a bit lazy of me.
All I will say that if you enjoy ghost stories you will love this.
It is my third read for RIP VI challenge. The shortest so far but already shaping up to be my favourite.