Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The Dead of Winter - Lee Collins

The Dead of Winter is the debut novel of Lee Collins. I wanted to read it because it's a western and supernatural crossover. I imagine it's a tough time to be a monster when loads of people were armed and the church had a strong grip on the population. I've always liked cowboys as well, or in this case, a cowgirl. Many thanks to Angry Robot Books for providing me with the opportunity to read The Dead of Winter before everyone else.

Cora “Mad Madam” Oglesby and her husband Ben Oglesby are bounty hunters. They don't hunt ordinary criminals, instead they go after a far more dangerous prey, “spooks”. And don't think The Human Stain here, “spook” is a generic term for any kind of supernatural monster.

In The Dead of Winter they are contracted by the town sheriff to deal with whatever it is ripping people apart and eating them. Cora is the one wearing the trousers in this family. She is the hothead, the drunk and the gambler and her husband is the calm one. I struggled throughout the book to connect or sympathise with Cora, but her abrasive manners made it impossible. I'm guessing Lee Collins wants her to be a tough anti-hero with a cocky attitude and cheeky one-liners. The kind of character which Daniel Polansky does so well with his Warden, or Chuck Wendig with his Coburn. In her defence  she does kick butt though, both undead and living.

As you can tell me and the Dead of Winter did not quite hit it off from the start. When you don't like the protagonist it's hard to enjoy a book, but it did get better. Lee Collins was hiding an ace up his sleeve, and that ace not only made Cora more likeable, it also explained a few other issues I had with the book, but I wish it had happened earlier.

It's a shame I did not agree with the protagonist as the supporting characters are all well written. Cora is not the only stubborn old mule in the little mining village, the resident sheriff would be a difficult boss as well. He is as gruff as Cora, but at least he seems to mean well. One of the deputies, who is sweet on a town whore, is quite the coward. Need contrast, if everyone was brave, we couldn't really tell who was brave or not.

The Dead of Winter was a bumpy ride for me. After complaining I was upgraded to first class and could enjoy the rest of my journey. You can't really go wrong with gunslingers who hunt monsters, but you probably need to agree with me on that to enjoy this book.

The Dead of Winter weighs in at 416 pages, and is published by Angry Robot Books.

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