When Ruthie comes home late after an evening with her boyfriend, she thinks she's lucky to have avoided an argument with her mother, Alice. But when she wakes the next morning to no sign of Alice, Ruthie realizes her mother has gone missing. While searching the house for clues, Ruthie and her sister make two strange discoveries: first, their mother has boarded up her own closet. Second, a board in the floor of their mother's room hides a book based on the century-old writings of a woman who once lived in their very home, licenses belonging to two strangers, and a gun.
Alice may be a bit on the strange side, set in her ways and set on enforcing those ways with both daughters, but Ruthie knows she'd never abandon them. What's worse, Alice isn't the first person to go missing in their area. As Ruthie tries to unravel the clues and find their missing mother, she turns to the book for answers about Alice's fate and the secrets she's so obviously been keeping.
I love Jennifer McMahon's work. In fact, this is one author I have to admit I'm a total fangirl over. There's almost always (I can't remember 100% positively so we'll go with almost) a dual storyline, and there's definitely always an underlying element of dread and an eeriness that seems to be somewhat beyond the normal realm of possibilities. Well this time she jumps wholeheartedly into the supernatural!
In 1908, Sara Harrison Shea suffers a great loss. One that breaks her. But there's hope. Her story unfolds intermittently as Ruthie's own present day story does. But it's not just Sara and Ruthie that are the heart of the story. West Hall, Vermont, a small town with strange tales and a string of missing people is where Katherine's husband, Gary, spend his last day. He lied about where he was that day, claiming to be photographing a wedding elsewhere. And Katherine may not have ever known but for the fact that Gary was killed in a car accident on his way home.
Now she's come to West Hall to investigate, eventually following a thread that leads her to Sara Harrison Shea as well.
McMahon's always been a pro at building fantastic suspense and in setting the perfect tone and atmosphere for that suspense. It's one of my favorite things about her work, that and the way she draws out a plot, feeding little clues to the reader along the way. The Winter People is no exception, but I think those elements are amplified with the addition of the obviously paranormal goings on in West Hall.
I do wish that some of the pieces of the story had been further developed. Fawn's own clear ability to see the winter people in particular was something I wish had been explored more. Honestly considering how much I enjoy McMahon's work, she could have doubled the size of the book and I probably still would have wanted more. Her pages are the kind I love to get lost in, her stories the kind I find myself getting so involved and immersed in that turning the final page is almost painful.
The Winter People is a fabulous addition to McMahon's list of titles. It is, as I mentioned before, a bit of a break from her previous work considering it does have that paranormal element, but I'm certain fans will still be pleased. I'm also certain it's a great starting place for folks unfamiliar with her work.
And no, this isn't McMahon's latest release. I actually have that one (The Night Sister) waiting in my TBR along with one of her older titles as well. I find McMahon's become one of the authors I save for a rainy day (literally) or for when I need a boost out of a book funk. But then I feel guilty about not having read them as soon as they release! It's a real dilemma for many reasons - as a fan I want to not only buy the books when they release but I want to read and review them and encourage everyone to go out and buy them. But it also creates a massive backlog and eventual overwhelming TBR to get to. As such, I signed on for the Backlist Books Challenge hosted by Pretty Deadly Reviews. You'll see more of these soon considering I've hoarded a massive collection of horror reads and have been in that particular mood of late!