One of the most important elements in a horror novel is atmosphere. Think about it. The creepy hotel, the not-quite-right hospital, or the haunted house are all settings for some of the most famous chilling novels. When an author gets the proper setting, it makes a chilling novel even better. A Cold Season Alison Littlewood sets a tone that leads to a tense read.
Cass, the mother to young Ben, has experienced more than her share of difficulties. She is estranged from her father, whose religious zeal when she was growing up caused a rift. Her husband, Pete, died in battle in Afghanistan. So, when an opportunity arises for Cass to return Darnshaw, the village in which she was raised, she decides that it might be a good choice for some healing and recovery. On her ride into town, however, her car does not seem to handle a rise well. It appears to be travelling in the wrong direction. With this foreshadowing, Littlewood sets up the “wrongness” of Darnshaw.
When Cass arrives at her new apartment, she realizes that she is the only tenant in the complex. In addition, the Internet connection, which Cass needs for her work, is sporadic at best. Finally, when the massive snow hits, Darnshaw is cut off from grocery stores and businesses. The only outlet in the small town seems to be the local school, run by substitute headmaster Remick.
As A Cold Season progresses, the inconveniences of the little isolated town turn from annoying to sinister. When Cass gets a neighbor to email files to a client, the files are corrupted with vile messages. Some neighbors turn cold and creepy. The field just outside town, where it is rumored that children were sacrificed in ages past, serves as a barrier between Darnshaw and the outside world. And when her son, Ben, begins acting strangely, Cass cannot deny that something evil has taken hold of her family.
While I found the level of dread rising as I read, I did find some of the plot points contrived and cliché. The source of the evil was highly reminiscent to me of Storm of the Century by Stephen King. Evil comes to a small town, and the children are the ones to bear the brunt of its power. The ending was the weakest part for me, as the novel descended into a typical conflict between a religious zealot and the embodiment of evil. In addition, an unbelievable plot twist and the appearance of a long lost character strained my credulity.This is the perfect time to read A Cold Season—when a few scares and tricks are welcome. Just don’t expect the novel to cover much new ground.
*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina