A Cold Season
Alison LittlewoodCass is building a new life for herself and her young son Ben after the death of her soldier husband Pete, returning to the village where she lived as a child. But their idyllic new home is not what she expected: the other flats are all empty, there's strange graffiti on the walls, and the villagers are a bit odd. And when an unexpectedly heavy snowstorm maroons the village, things get even harder. Ben is changing, he's surly and aggressive and Cass's only confidant is the smooth, charming Theodore Remick, the stand-in headmaster. Not everyone approves of Cass's growing closeness to Mr Remick, and it soon becomes obvious he's not all he appears to be either. If she is to protect her beloved son, Cass is going to have to fight back. Cass realises this is not the first time her family have been targeted by Theodore Remick. But this time, the stakes are immeasurably higher...
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This is a very spooky story. You’ll love it if you are into tales of the occult, or a fan of film classic The Wicker Man, which I certainly am. Cass’s soldier husband has gone missing, presumed killed, in Afghanistan. Floored by grief, she decides to take her young son Ben, traumatised by his father’s death, to start a new life in the remote village on the Lancashire moors where she grew up...
Even as they drive across Saddleworth Moor to reach their new home, strange things begin to happen. The road across the moor seems to tilt so that when Cass drives up a hill, she feels as if she’s driving down it. And there is so much fog that she can barely see a few feet in front of her. A strange hitch-hiker appears at the side of the road. It is a woman called Sally, and she is heading for the same isolated village as Cass. She says her car has broken down, and, oddly, seems to know a great about Cass and Ben, including the address of the new flat they have rented. After Sally has been dropped off, Ben tells his mother he doesn’t like her, adding, disquietingly, that she ‘smells like a butcher’s shop’.
Their new home is an apartment in a beautiful, newly-converted old mill. Strangely, they are the only tenants. Soon, mysterious and worrying events begin to occur in Darnshaw, and Cass begins to fear for the safety of her son. This book is disturbing, in a devilish, Midsomer Murders kind of way. It’s a perfect read for a cold night in front of a roaring fire.
Judy sees something of a dark Midsomer Murders in this story. For me, Darnshaw has more the air of Royston Vasey in The League of Gentlemen. The story is told in ‘real time’ in this foggy, snowy, claustrophobic moorland village. All its inhabitants are rather odd...
Cass’s son starts at the local school, where the mysterious Mr Remick is the temporary headmaster. (We never discover what happened to his predecessor). Handsome and charming, he is a source of fascination for the local mothers As dark, sinister events begin to unfold, Cass begins to seriously question her son’s sanity. As he makes friends with the other pupils, Ben changes from a sad but friendly child into a cold and hostile boy who seems to increasingly hold his mother in contempt. Mr Remick is at the centre of A Cold Season, but perhaps the creepiest character of all is the village of Darnshaw itself. Outsiders are not welcome (think An American Werewolf In London, the movie in which two young hitchhikers wander into a moorland pub but are sent on their doomed way by hostile locals). This story has a similar flavour. After a series of desperate attempts to leave the snowbound village, all of which fail, Cass’s luck changes and it seems there may be a happy outcome after all. But as usual, all is not what it seems.
The mysterious cult of Darnshaw, and its devilish leader, have in some way marked Cass for ever, and even as she escapes, she knows in her heart her association with the village is not yet over. This sensual, sexy and frightening story has a clever ending. It’s all hugely enjoyable – perfect reading for a dark winter’s night.
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