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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Winter Ghosts: A Review

Author Kate Mosse is well-known for her best-selling novels Labyrinth and Sepulchre. Next week marks the release of her latest novel, The Winter Ghosts, but it is unlikely to add to the acclaim she has received for her previous works.

The Winter Ghosts is a perplexing book. The language is often beautifully lyrical and Mosse is excellent at both describing locations and capturing the atmosphere of a locale. I have not read her previous books, but it is likely that her skill with words is part of the reason for their success.

The Winter Ghosts even has a captivating plot idea (note the word idea). The jacket blurb summarizes the novel this way:

In the winter of 1928, still seeking some kind of resolution to the horrors of World War I, Freddie is traveling through the beautiful but forbidding French Pyrenees. During a snowstorm, his car spins off the mountain road. Dazed, he stumbles through the woods, emerging in a tiny village, where he finds an inn to wait out the blizzard. There he meets Fabrissa, a lovely young woman also mourning a lost generation.

Over the course of one night, Fabrissa and Freddie share their stories. By the time dawn breaks, Freddie will have unearthed a tragic, centuries-old mystery, and discovered his own role in the life of this remote town.

So far it seems like this should be a really good novel; unfortunately, it is not. Mosse may have a great story idea, and may have a way with words, but both the ultimate plot and the characters that move through it are as wooden and predictable as a daytime soap opera. The narrative plods along for at least the first 100 pages, then accelerates to a conclusion that any reader saw coming from at least the midpoint of the book.

Perhaps the worst thing about the predictability of the second half of the story and its ultimate resolution is that the one person who seems to never figures out the clues is the protagonist, Freddy. There have been many novels where the reader had information the characters did not, but never has there been a main character so obtuse as to not recognize the answers to questions when they are right in front of his face. In fact, Freddy may be the single dumbest fictional character I have read in decades.

If you’re are a die hard Kate Mosse fan, you will either blindly love this book or be tremendously disappointed. If you are not a die hard fan, simply don’t spend your money on The Winter Ghosts. There are too many good books that deserve your attention for you to waste time with this one.

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