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A Winter Haunting    by Dan Simmons order for
Winter Haunting
by Dan Simmons
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2002 (2002)

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* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Dan Simmons is one of those quiet authors, whose works appear with regularity but without the huge fanfare that accompanies new releases of one or two other dark fantasy/horror writers, who shall remain un-named and who aren't half as good. A Winter Haunting is the continuation of Summer of Night, a story Simmons released almost a decade ago. It followed a group of young school friends through one horrific, death-filled summer in 1960.

Dale Stewart, one of the survivors, has barely coped with his failed marriage and an affair with a student that seemed doomed from the outset. He even fails miserably at suicide. Leaving Montana behind, Dale heads east, back to his childhood home of Elm Haven. His intent is to pull himself and his life back together - and to finally get on with the book he's always wanted to write. Doing so, however, will force him to confront his past.

Dale has arranged to rent the old McBride place, home of his long-dead best friend. Duane was a boy sorely misunderstood throughout his short life who, during that fateful summer forty years before, met a grisly end that still defies explanation. Dale hopes that by renting the farmstead he'll finally be able to come to terms with what's happened in his life over the past year, and also with events of that unforgettable summer of 1960.

Naturally, odd things begin to manifest the moment Dale sets foot in Elm Haven. When he encounters menacing black dogs, an equally menacing sheriff who was once the town bully, a group of Skinheads, and (even more disturbing) mysterious messages on his computer screen, Dale begins to wonder if he's skirting the edge of sanity - or something unimaginable.

While A Winter Haunting does not have the intensity and sheer brilliance of some of the author's earlier works (particularly Carrion Comfort), Simmons has created another deceptive book that lures you in, page by page, and then grabs you by the throat as it hurtles toward a truly scary conclusion. Some readers may want to read Summer of Night first, but this novel also stands on its own as another fine offering by Dan Simmons.

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