Friday, March 11, 2016

Suicide Reviews: A Cold Season by Alison Littlewood

A Cold Season 

Summary: After the battlefront loss of her husband, a soldier, in the sands of the Middle East, a distraught Cass moves to the bucolic, picture-perfect village of Darnshaw with her young son. Since Cass's website design business can be run from anywhere with an internet connection and Ben could benefit from a change of scenery, a move to the highlands village seems like just the thing. 

But the locals aren't as friendly as she had hoped and the internet connection isn't as reliable as her business requires. And when Ben begins to display a hostility that is completely unlike his usual gentle nature, Cass begins to despair. Finally, the blizzards thunder through, marooning Darnshaw in a sea of snow.

When things look their blackest, Cass finds a sympathetic ear in the person of Mr.Remick, the substitute headmaster at Ben's school. But Remick's attentions can't put to rest her growing anxiety about her son and her business. And soon, she finds herself pitted against dark forces she can barely comprehend. The cold season has begun.

Date Published: January 1, 2012
Published By: Jo Fletcher
Number of Pages: 290
Rating: 3.5/5

A Cold Season is the kind of story that will discourage you from ever moving to a small town. Or going outside during winter. Or just going outside, period. 

Cass and her son Ben find themselves stranded in Darnshaw after a snowstorm makes all the roads impassable. This gives the book an incredibly claustrophobic atmosphere - the feeling of being smothered by snow leeches out of the pages and into the reader's brain. The gnawing sense of isolation and paranoia continues to build as ominous things keep happening. Twice, Cass tries to escape - and both times, she fails. You get the sense that she is trapped there and it's pretty darn freaky.

There are a lot of disturbing moments in the book but they're never in-your-face terrifying - it's a more subtle kind of uneasiness. Something strange will happen and it will kind of sit there in the back of your head, and then the next thing will happen, and the next - so the tension slowly builds and builds until all of a sudden you find yourself gripping the pages, overwhelmed by dread. It's incredibly effective - more so, I would say, than splattering guts and gore all over the place. 

I will say I found the climax to be a little underwhelming and predictable, but the author makes up for it by delivering a truly chilling final page. Once I finished reading it, I had to go snuggle with my cat for awhile to make myself feel better. 

A Cold Season reads like a mash-up of The Shining and The Exorcist. I wouldn't say it's a must-read, but fans of occult horror will probably enjoy it. Or, if you like horror but not gore, this book is perfect for you.

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