Friday, March 9, 2018

Dead of Winter by Wendy Corsi Staub

Reviewed by Jeanne

In Lily Dale, it’s not considered odd if someone sees dead people.  It’s almost odd if you don’t. The town does a thriving summer business as people come from all over to attend seminars on psychic phenomenon, use local mediums to try to contact deceased friends and family, and have readings done to find out if their lives are on the right track. And yes, it is a real place.

After summer, things are slower.  Weather in that part of New York can be very unpredictable but usually snow, and lots of it, is involved so there are few tourists and many places simply close for the season. Bella Jordan, a young widow with a small son named Max, works as an innkeeper in Lily Dale and is pleased that she has a couple of reservations.  She’s also doing some renovations to the cottage, earning some badly needed extra money.  It’s while she’s working on the kitchen one evening that she sees an unusual glint outside at the lake.  She turns off the light and looks out, but sees nothing.

Unfortunately for Bella, the man dumping the body has seen her

This is the third in the Lily Dale Mystery series, but could be read as a standalone.  I enjoyed the book very much, especially the way Staub weaves clues into the narrative, often as parts of possible signs and portents.  Many times a reader will spot what is going on while the characters involved remain puzzled, which actually added to the charm for me.  

Part of the plot also involves Jiffy, Max’s friend, who has a premonition that he will be kidnapped.  Jiffy is an active child with a vivid imagination and a limited attention span. He often leads Max into trouble.  Misty, Jiffy’s mother, seems very inattentive to her child.  In this book, we get to see things from both Jiffy’s and Misty’s perspectives, giving readers a more sympathetic view of the trials of both a precocious child and a young mother struggling to make a life for herself and her child.

Characterization is one of the book’s strong points, along with a vivid sense of place.  Those who don’t believe in the afterlife or mediums or ghosts will likely find the book a disappointment, but those who have an interest in such things will find it fascinating.  The plot is solid enough, though I had a quibble or two; but give me well-developed characters, an intriguing premise, and a fascinating location and I am happy to overlook any shortcomings.

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