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The Dead of Winter

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After Michael's parents die, he is invited to stay with his guardian in a desolate country house. He begins to suspect something is not quite right on the day he arrives when he spots a mysterious woman out in the frozen mists. But little can prepare him for the solitude of the house itself. His guardian is rarely seen, and there's a malevolent force lurking in an old hallway mirror. As the chilling suspense builds, Michael realizes that the house and its grounds harbor many ...

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The Dead of Winter

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After Michael's parents die, he is invited to stay with his guardian in a desolate country house. He begins to suspect something is not quite right on the day he arrives when he spots a mysterious woman out in the frozen mists. But little can prepare him for the solitude of the house itself. His guardian is rarely seen, and there's a malevolent force lurking in an old hallway mirror. As the chilling suspense builds, Michael realizes that the house and its grounds harbor many more secrets-both dead and alive.

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Editorial Reviews

VOYA - Diane Colson
Young Michael's life becomes a living nightmare when he is taken to the home of his new guardian, Sir Stephen, who lives in an ancient home named Hawton Mere, isolated by miles of flat country. From the carriage window, he sees a ghostly woman with sad, pleading eyes. Michael demands that they stop the carriage and rescue this woman, but she has vanished into the dark countryside. Michael is flooded with an awareness that something is very wrong at Hawton Mere. He soon discovers that Sir Stephen has a "nervous condition," which renders his guardian virtually insane. Not only is Michael desperately lonely, most frightening are loud, banging sounds and repeated visions of the ghostly woman that are experienced only by Michael . . . and Sir Stephen. Reading this book is much like watching a formulaic horror movie. Michael is tormented by a string of terrors that are dismissed by the few adults around him. And yet conversations stop when he enters a room. He is repeatedly assured of a "good talk" about the mysterious goings-on, but it never comes. A jaded reader might find it tediously predictable, but first-time horror readers should enjoy the steady stream of scares. The Victorian setting, decked with jolly servants, evil-ish nobility, and a creepy haunted mansion, provides an accessible introduction to the genre. The book is highly suitable for middle school readers, although older teens may find it an eye-roller. Reviewer: Diane Colson
Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
The Prologue lets us know this is going to be a scary tale because the writer is terrified even to write it down. As the story opens, young Michael Vyner is staring into the grave of his widowed mother, bereft and totally uncertain about what his future holds. As often happens in real life, the lawyers step in to manage it all and Michael is given unto the care of a guardian he has never met, Sir Stephen Clarendon—the man his father saved at the cost of his own life. The very next morning, Michael is taken away to spend Christmas at the Clarendon family home, Hawton Mere, a forbidding stone manse surrounded by a moat and isolated in the flat desolate fenlands. But before he even arrives, mysterious events overtake Michael. A woman in white, apparently soaking wet, approaches the carriage beseeching their help; yet when they stop, no one is to be seen. Once they reach the house, Michael immediately feels, sees, and hears something evil stalking him; the house and his guardian are hiding dark secrets. Can Michael escape the immediate dangers? Can he ever escape? This is a rousing good ghost story set in Victorian England that will appeal to those who like to get a chill and look over their shoulders into dark corners. No explicit language, violence or gore so this is suitable for younger teens as well. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—In his first novel-length, gothic horror tale, Priestley pays homage to Poe's "Fall of the House of Usher" and in the process crafts a taut thriller with a foreboding setting and appropriately creepy atmosphere. Like the classic, this story features an isolated, imposing manor house that produces an inexplicable sense of dread in the narrator. Hawton Mere, like Poe's titular mansion, is inhabited by a brother afflicted by a debilitating psychological condition and a sister. But unlike Poe's unnamed narrator, Michael Vyner is not a willing visitor. Recently orphaned, he discovers that he is now the ward of Sir Stephen, the lord of Hawton Mere. Michael's father gave his life saving Sir Stephen in battle in Afghanistan and he is repaying that debt by caring for the boy. Upon arrival, Michael is nearly overwhelmed by a sense of impending doom. He is also afflicted by apparitions and strange noises. He is soon thrust into the mystery of the death of Sir Stephen's late wife and the origins of the poltergeistlike spirit that terrorizes him and his guardian. Though the story begins like Rick Yancey's Monstrumologist (S & S, 2009), with a narrator writing years after the fact, Priestley stays truer to the traditional genre, focusing on atmospherics and psychology rather than blood and gore. Students who want a break from the graphic violence of modern horror stories will enjoy this short volume.—Anthony C. Doyle, Livingston High School, CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781599907451
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 1/31/2012
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 677,121
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Chris Priestley is the author of the spine-tingling Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror, Tales of Terror from the Black Ship and Mister Creecher. Chris is also an illustrator, painter, and cartoonist.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 5, 2012

    Good Middle Grade or younger teen ghost story I could not help b

    Good Middle Grade or younger teen ghost story
    I could not help but think of The Woman in Black the whole time reading this and finding comparisons. Mostly because The Woman in Black recently came out on film and because there are a lot of similarities. But this book was written for a younger crowed, more 12-15 years of age.

    Characters: I liked all of the characters in this novel. I thought that Michael was very brave and that the lawyer was above and beyond nice by taking him into his home. Michael is not afraid to ask questions and as most people are, very curious about the mysterious things and people he begins to see.

    Originality: There was not much that was particularly original about the story, But the main ideas that it is a young man solving the mystery and that he seems to have more guts than the adults do around him was a nice change of pace. Michael was everything a reader looks for in a good main character for a mystery setting. He asks the right questions at the right time and determined to find an answer.

    Plot: Michael's life is thrown upside down when his mother dies and leaves him orphaned. He is told at the funeral that he will now be living with Sir Stephen Clarendon and moved to his country estate. Upon arrival he begins to hear the whisperings of the help and staff of the haunting and rumors and stories of suicide. And then it's not long before he starts seeing them himself, through the windows and the mirrors and decides that he wants answers to this mystery.

    Writing: Set in Victorian England this story has a Gothic overtone along with the suspenseful mystery of the plot. Although the poltergeist is meant to be more of a lean towards a horror novel, beyond being creepy I do not believe it will cause any nightmares, even for younger readers. It is a shorter book that can easily be read in a day or two and ideas that are geared towards younger readers.

    Rating: I have never read anything by this author before. I think that the writing is more for the younger readers and tweens. The scare factor of the story can be enjoyed by people of all ages. Although I never lost any sleep over it, I did have moments where the hair on the back of my neck stood up. For younger readers I would rate this story 4 stars. The concepts and writing are easy to follow and the shortness of the book still falls into the novel range, but engaging enough that reluctant readers will keep reading. For teen readers or older this story may seem a little simplistic, the plot can be easily followed but it really made for a great weekend read for me. I think that readers would also enjoy reading The Poisoned House. Same Gothic feeling, with a female main character and a great ghost story as well.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 15, 2012

    Chris Priestley is definitely a young reader¿s Stephen King

    Angels and statues that have been colored green by time surround Michael when the reader is introduced to this young man who has lost his mother. Standing at the funeral, Michael has no idea what he’s going to do next. What he doesn’t expect is a man to come out of the mist to let Michael know that he has now become the ward of a stranger by the name of Sir Stephen Clarendon.
    Sir Stephen has been sending money ever since Michael’s father sacrificed himself so that Stephen could live and Michael soon finds himself traveling to a place called Hawton Mere, a castle owned by this stranger. Upon approach, Michael is faced with the pale, ghostly figure of a woman who begs him for help.
    Inside the castle, he’s meets people who have very strange issues. They all seem rather nervous, and it feels as if Michael is suddenly caught up in some horror film. Sir Stephen is a gangly man who looks as if he’s about to fall into the first grave he sees. Along with him comes a rambunctious wolfhound and a sister named Charlotte has an air of evil. The only ones who seem sane are the ‘help’ of the house who whisper stories about happenings that occurred in Hawton Mere throughout history. Anger, cruelty, and hatred enclosed in the mansion have made Sir Stephen insane. He sees things, hears things, and his wife committed suicide.
    Funnily enough, it takes a boy seeing and hearing these things to get people to listen to the Lord of the Manor, and Michael is soon embroiled in not only a paranormal, ghostly world, but in the discovery of murder and solving this deadly crime.
    Stories aimed at the pre-teen market have been missing for some time, and readers are truly excited about the fact that they have found their niche once again and writers are creating phenomenal stories, such as this one, to invigorate young readers. A chilly, spooky, goose bump thrill ride, Chris Priestley is definitely a young reader’s Stephen King.
    Reviewed by Amy Lignor, author of “Tallent & Lowery - 13” for Suspense Magazine

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    Posted March 11, 2012

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    Posted February 5, 2012

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    Posted May 25, 2012

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