Dead of Winter takes place in a fort in the Ontario wilderness in 1878. Inspector Tom Hatcher has been called in to solve a mystery surrounding strange murders involving cannibalism and a plague that seems to be turning its victims into ravenous creatures that both look and act inhuman. Tom has come from Montreal, where he dealt with a cannibal of a different sort-a serial killer who murdered street walkers and devoured their flesh. He managed to capture that madman, and tossed him into prison. Now it seems a new killer is following in that maniac’s footsteps out in the backwoods. At the same time, back in Montreal, Father Xavier, an exorcist, has been called upon to cast out the demon possessing the serial killer that Tom Hatcher caught while the man rots in prison. These two men’s paths intertwine as the mystery at the fort grows deeper and more people end up dead or worse, transformed into savage monsters, both in mind and in body. It is up to these two men to discover what is behind the plague and stop it before everyone else ends up dead.
Dead of Winter is a horror-mystery that intertwines both of these elements with ease. The author also intermingles Catholic beliefs in demonic possession and exorcism with the traditional native tribal beliefs of evil and good spirits, and does so quite deftly. The interesting thing is that the way the story is told, the two elements don’t clash or conflict with one another, but seem to make sense as a natural blend. Evil is evil, whatever it is called, and you need whatever resources you can collect to combat it. The culture, religious faiths, and historical elements of the story are well researched, and my first guess was that the author must live in the region, since he knows so much about its tribes and history. So I was surprised to find out that Mr. Moreland lives in Dallas according to his bio (though I suppose that doesn’t mean he isn’t originally from Canada).
I enjoyed the detail to which the characters were developed and the depth they were given. They are revealed inch by inch, divulging enough details that they kept me intrigued without revealing too much, too soon. The reveals are intriguing at each turn and the author was willing to give the reader a surprise with a startling turn of events fairly early on in the story. Elements like that are unexpected, but welcomed despite the sense that an author has zigged when you might expect him to zag. At least for me. Characters like Tom Hatcher and Father Xavier are definitely not cookie cutter-there are plenty of reasons to both like and dislike both men, and to really feel what they are going through as they face this nightmare both on their own and with the rest of the cast of characters.
I have not read anything else by Brian Moreland, but if his other works are this well researched and well crafted, I look forward to checking them out as well. Dead of Winter is a great story that I thoroughly enjoyed.
You can find Dead of Winter here: http://www.amazon.com/Dead-of-Winter-ebook/dp/B005LYIDUY/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1319692214&sr=1-2