The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins
Review by Jasper de Joode
Cora Ogelsby and her husband, Ben, hunt things – things that shouldn’t exist.
When the marshal of Leadville, Colorado, comes across a pair of mysterious, bloody deaths out in the badlands, he turns to Cora to find the creature responsible. But if she is to overcome the unnatural tide threatening to consume the small town, Cora must first confront her own tragic past.
The Dead of Winter is the first instalment in the series of “Cora Ogelsby” written by Lee Collins. The second book is to be released in February 2013. When I found out about The Dead of Winter I thought it would be a nice change from the more fantasy themed, going instead for a western supernatural setting but what especially caught my attention was the phrase “things that shouldn’t exist”.
After quite the bloody introduction you soon get to meet up with Cora and her husband Ben. It is assumed that she has some clue of what has happened to the town of Leadville. With a gruesome stripped and mutilated body the local marshal and his fellow townsmen can only come up with a vicious attack of a grizzle bear or wolf. But Cora knows better… or does she? But even in her hunting career she has not come across something like this. From this part on you are being introduced to several supernatural beings that Cora has come across like hellhounds and vampires. Using these well known supernatural beings got me interested in how it would be translated and used in the story. What I particularly liked about this is that Lee Collins introduces a whole new type of entity. There was not a flaw in the entities background and showed a nice case of doing homework on this creature. I was surprised and the encounters in the mine by Cora were quite spooky and got me to the edge my seat.
The story really takes off when Cora finds a solution to the problem, normal bullets just won’t do… However the removal of this creature took only about half the book. When I felt that this first job was running on its endings I was wondering what there was left in store for me. Looking back at the first part and the second part after finishing the book there is a logical transition and many pieces do come together. You already got to meet Cora, Ben and some of the other townspeople but the second part of the books delves deeper into some of the background of the characters. And Cora meets up with a scholar who specializes in vampire lore, more than she previously knew. He is quite the help though. I first did not expect a vampire theme in The Dead of Winter. I am not that huge a fan of vampires but Lee Collins did use them in a great way, luckily not giving in the “mainstream” vampire, but going back more to the original aspects: crosses, garlic, holy water and blessed silver bullets/weapons, this taken together with the western theme just spoke directly into my own imagination.
It is with this introduction of the vampire threat that The Dead of Winter takes an even more interesting turn for the better, showing quite the detailed background on how certain aspects came to pass.
In the end there was a nice mind-teaser on how exactly the relation between Cora and Ben is/was. I still got my mind puzzling if this was somehow due to Glava or due to a broken mind and a lot of alcohol in Cora. I keep going back to the events previously described in the books, like the encounters in which Cora said her husband was there, to the physical things between Cora and Ben. This was nicely put together.
For the main characters there are Cora and Ben Ogelsby, supernatural bounty hunters. With the synopsis I was eager to find out what drove Cora and Ben to hunting the supernatural. Did something happen and are they now exacting their revenge? I could not find these answers in the beginning but the second half of the book had some very pleasant revelations regarding the past events. You just get the feeling that Cora, the main protagonist, has a heavy history and is carrying a burden somehow. She is quite the heavy drinker and does not shy away from having to fire her gun. She is to the point and wants to carry out all her jobs in the best way. But one thing that struck me as odd was how she put a scar on her cheek after killing the first monsters, and directly following up that she finds herself ugly. Why start with it in the first place then? I could not find an explanation of why she was scarring herself and this could have given a nice lead to the past.
Just to summarize: The Dead of Winter nails the supernatural part and taken together with the western theme produces a unique story. With the vivid descriptions and the town and the monsters you get to meet allows a nice visualization. Using both common and uncommon monsters frequented in the supernatural gave again more to The Dead of Winter. And with Cora being a great main protagonist this is definitely a series for me to watch.
Ryan from U.S.
The Dead of Winter by Lee Collins is a fantasy western about supernatural bounty hunters. Think the TV show Supernatural, set in 1880's frontier America, where the hunters are husband and wife instead of brothers. This is, as you would probably expect, an action driven adventure about a seemingly straight forward hunt gone wrong. It's not a ground breaking book, not by any means. But it's a lot of fun with a couple of gritty protagonists and some big bad enemies that pose a real threat. Collins does a lot of things right in this book, and the end result is a solid debut that works on a number of different levels.
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