Friday, April 25, 2008

CFBA Tour - Winter Haven

Athol Dickson won a lot of acclaim and awards for his last book, River Rising. I didn't read that one, so when his latest work, Winter Haven, was available for review, I didn't want to miss out.

Winter Haven is the name of an island off the coast of Maine. Vera Gambles, a 24 year old accountant, travels there because the body of her long-lost brother, Sigmund or "Siggy", had washed up on the north shore of the island. In the midst of the opening of old wounds, the question of how an autistic savant made it from Texas to the Atlantic is her main concern.

When she sees his body and finds he hasn't aged from thirteen years ago, new questions arise.

What is the connection between this appearance, the strange fog over the north part of the island, the legend of a lost Puritan colony, a figure clothed in black, and Siggy's body? Vera struggles with the strangeness of the island, her own demons, and the mysterious Captain Evan Frost in her journey to discover the secret of Winter Haven.

The characterization is probably the strength of the book. Vera is mousy and flawed - she's not the gorgeous and confident heroine we see in so many other books, and to me, the change is welcome. She has a lot to overcome, and you're not sure if she can rise to it. Evan Frost is very hard to pin down, and even the cranky widow has her moments of sympathy.

The book is an easy read, and it is fairly engaging. The book is written in first person, from Vera's perspective. This allows the author to introduce a lot of suspense that she has problems figuring out, but some sections where she is wrestling with her past were confusing. I got bogged down a couple of times in these spots. The suspense is gripping at times, and overall I enjoyed the book, but it wasn't my favorite in this genre.

I recommend the book, but honestly I would wait for paperback if I were to buy it for someone.

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