Title: Deep Winter by Samuel W. Gailey
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Genre: Historical (80s), Mystery/Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
In the small town of Wyalusing in eastern Pennsylvania, a woman is found brutally murdered one winter night. Next to the body is Danny Bedford, a misunderstood man who suffered a tragic brain injury that left him with limited mental capabilities. Despite his simple life, his intimidating size has caused his neighbors to ostracize him out of fear of what he may do. So when the local bully-turned-deputy discovers Danny with the body, it’s obvious that Danny’s physical strength has finally become deadly. But in the long, freezing night that follows, the murder is only the first in a series of crimes that viciously upset the town order—an unstoppable chain of violence that appears to make Danny’s guilt undeniable.
With the threat of an approaching blizzard, the local sheriff and a state trooper work through the predawn hours to restore some semblance of order to Wyalusing. As they investigate one unspeakable incident after another, they discover an intricate web of lies revealing that not everything is quite what it seems.
With echoes of Scott Smith’s A Simple Plan and Tana French’s In the Woods, Samuel W. Gailey’s Deep Winter is a richly atmospheric and ingeniously plotted debut, surprising to the final page. It’s impossible to escape this bone-chilling story of deception, where the truth is uncertain and something sinister lurks just below the surface. . . .
Samuel W. Gailey’s debut release Deep Winter is a dark, gritty and extremely violent yet compelling novel. The town of Wyalusing, PA is stunned by the brutal murder of Mindy Knolls, but even more shocking is the apparent identity of her killer-Danny Bedford, a gentle giant whose near drowning as a child left him with diminished mental capacity.
Ostracized by most of the townspeople, Danny lives a quiet and mostly solitary life. He and Mindy have been friends since childhood and Mindy can always be counted on to defend Danny from the town’s bullies. They share a long and complicated past with Mike Sokowski, a local Deputy and Mindy’s violent on again/off again boyfriend. Danny, Mindy, and Sokowski’s worlds tragically collide one snowy night in 1984 in a horrific act of violence and the biggest mystery is not who killed Mindy, but what will become of Danny Bedford.
Told from multiple points of view, Deep Winter is a riveting, character driven novel. Of course, Danny is the most sympathetic character and the unfolding events are mostly beyond his comprehension. One of the other likable character is the Lester, the town sheriff. Close to retirement age, he is still sharp as a tack but it takes him a while to piece together the evidence from the crime scene. Called in to assist in the investigation, State Trooper Bill Taggart is an alcoholic who is more of a liability than an asset. Deputy Mike Sokowski is not only at the bottom of the law enforcement barrel, but he is the personification of evil. Alcoholic, corrupt and self-indulgent, he is unrepentant and ruthless as he continues on his unrelenting path of destruction with the help of his spineless lackey, Carl.
Deep Winter is a disquieting read that I found impossible to put down. It is not traditional mystery but there is plenty of action and suspense. The story is desolate, and while it seems like any type of positive outcome is impossible, Samuel W. Gailey ends the novel on a surprisingly hopeful note.
All in all, Deep Winter is an impressive first novel and I am looking forward to Samuel W. Gailey’s next release.