Top critical review
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Finely Written Novel Overcomes Fractures
on January 1, 2017
Author Matthew Iden started out well, framing a thriller with a compelling story and backdrop that kept me enthusiastically reading until about 80% into the story. At that point, the foundation began to crack and, if not for the power of the author's prose, might have caused the story to tumble to the ground. Here's why, without spoilers:
THE WRITING -- "The Winter Over" is carried by exceptional descriptions and dialogue. Mr. Iden demonstrates his skills from the first page to the last, weaving images that paint complete pictures of the action. The reader is introduced to all the major and minor characters, presenting enough information that one never becomes confused. This aspect of the book is five-star quality.
THE PLOT – Without being pushed, the reader is slowly pulled into the story until immersed in the mystifying details and unable to stop turning the pages. With less than a quarter of the book left, the plot took on a different life, and it felt at times that events were twisted to make sense of the story. The first time I kept my disbelief in check, but then something else happened followed by other incredulous incidents. After a while, I felt like the Dutch boy trying to plug leaks in the dike. Eventually, I ran out of fingers. Some of the problems (without exposing major parts of the story): causing weapons to suddenly appear, enabling the heroine to miraculously have just the tool she needs close at hand, and a scene where the moon is full but it is pitch black outside and nothing can be seen (including a nearby fire). Add to that the calculating Observer (the villain) being revealed at the end through a careless slip and story immersion continues to fracture.
THE CHARACTERS – One cannot help but like the heroine Cass. While she does carry some baggage with her, it doesn’t overwhelm her personality. Readers will find it hard not to step into her shoes and experience the action through her eyes. Other characters are fleshed out enough to give the story credibility.
IN CASE YOU WANTED TO KNOW – I don’t charge stars for language, but do let potential readers know there are vulgarities and f-bombs in this book. The author makes judicious use of these rather than littering them unnecessarily throughout the book. While there are some instances of sexual innuendos, they are on the level of what one would see and hear on a weeknight sitcom. Sex scenes are not described in the story.
THE INTANGIBLES – Thrillers similar to “The Winter Over” have been written many times. Take a bunch of people, add some danger, plant them where there is no easy way out, and let the mayhem happen. However, Mr. Iden’s descriptions and character interactions make this a page-turner. Yes, there are some plot devices in the final chapters which caused concern. However, while these led to a lower rating, the book is so well crafted that I still recommend it.
BOTTOM LINE – A good read, one that will hold your attention. Rating it three-and-a half stars.