Back in 1960, Dale Stewart and his 11-year old friends, along with Dale’s younger brother, had a bicycle “gang” in their hometown of Elm Haven. They’d ride their bikes all over the small town and, as all boys, get into some trouble.
They suspected, no, they knew, that something was odd with their school, spooky even, and very dangerous because the school was out to kill them. Not the teachers or anyone who worked there, but the school itself. The bike gang dug around and found out some information about the town and the school was not going to let them get the information out. Making things weirder was that some of the inhabitants of Elm Haven knew what was going on with the school and needed the boys to mind their own business
Now, 41 years later, Professor Dale Stewart returned to his old home of Elm Haven to write a book about what happened in 1960, if only he could remember what that was but he’s sure this is where he has to be to get his memory back.
He has nothing to lose by going on sabbatical from his teaching job, he’s lost everything that matters anyway. Dale’s wife left him and took his two daughters because Dale fell in love with one of his students. Then the student left him because she grew bored with him. It was all Dale’s fault, all of it. He couldn’t blame anyone else for the way his life turned out so he’s determined to go back to Elm Haven and write his book.
But you know what they say about going home again and maybe Dale shouldn’t have because there’s something wrong with his hometown and he might not live long enough to write and finish his book.
Dale rents the farm of his old friend, Duane. Duane’s parents are long dead and so is Duane for that matter. Duane was killed in 1960 by a piece of farm equipment that ran over and then shredded him. Many believed that Duane’s perpetually drunk father killed his son by mistake but he had a solid alibi; the father was at a bar getting drunk.
Winter has come to Elm Haven and even though it’s early winter in 1999, right before Thanksgiving, the town is being hit with a lot of snow and there’s no cell reception which greatly helps the supernatural forces that are determined to finally do away with Dale. And these supernatural forces are getting help from some of the inhabitants of the town.
“A Winter Haunting” is the third installment of author Dan Simmons’ Seasons of Horror series. I loved the first book of the series, “Summer of Night” where Dale and Duane were kids in 1960. It’s pretty important t read “Summer Night” before the other two books because many of the characters reoccur and readers have to know who and what they were.
The horror aspect in “A Winter Haunting” is there but the book, while still very good, is a little too “talky” for me. Yes, the reader needs to know some background on what Dale has been doing these last 40 years and we need to know how and why Dale ruined his life but it went into more detail than I thought necessary.
The best parts of the novel was when it was focused in Elm Haven in the year 1999 right before the turn of the century and what was happening to Dale then and there. That is where the nightmare comes in.
If you’re not a fan of ghost stories maybe you should stay away of this book. I’m not a real lover of stories like this because they scare me but every once in a while I do read them and I’m glad I chose to put my fears aside and read this. If you enjoy a little scare to excite your dull life read the Seasons of Horror series. It will get your blood flowing.
Paperback, 371 pages
Published December 31st 2002 by HarperTorch (first published 2002)
Original Title: A Winter Haunting