The Winter People

West Hall, Vt., the setting of Jennifer McMahon's The Winter People, appears to be a typical small town. Over the last century, however, a half dozen people have vanished from its environs without a trace. It all began in 1908 when Sara Harrison Shea, whose daughter had died tragically a few months earlier, was found gruesomely murdered behind her house. Legend has it Sara knew the secret of raising "Sleepers," dead people who could walk again; and many people claim to have seen her around West Hall in the years since her death.

Now, another family lives in the same old farmhouse: Alice, her 19-year-old daughter, Ruthie, and her younger daughter, Fawn. Their life is mostly normal, except that Alice insists on living off the grid--which presents huge problems when she goes missing. While searching her mother's room for clues, an increasingly desperate Ruthie comes across Sara Harrison Shea's diary and realizes her mother's disappearance may be more sinister than she'd thought.

McMahon (Promise Not to Tell) has woven together a fascinatingly creepy tale. The historical foundation and the modern mystery blend together seamlessly, making the reader eager to find out the secrets Sara Harrison Shea might have known, while the exploration of mother-daughter love and loss makes both Sara's and Ruthie's narratives irresistible. Not a book to be read late at night, or in a creaky old house, The Winter People is a literary thriller to savor. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

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