Author: Graham Masterton
Format: galley (also available 4/15/11 on audio book)
Publisher: Unbridled Books (also on Twitter)
Release Date: 11/2001 (first published in the UK in 1995)
Length: 432 pages
Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley
Laura and Elizabeth Buchanan’s lives were changed forever when their little sister Peggy was found dead in the icy water of the family’s pool.
But Peggy never left her sisters. As Laura and Elizabeth grow up, a string of inexplicable deaths threatens to shatter their lives. Each corpse shows signs of frostbite–and each victim’s dying moments are tortured by a merciless little girl in a white dress.
My thoughts, which contain spoilers:
As the synopsis states, Laura and Lizzie Buchanan lose their younger sister during the winter of 1940 when she fell through the ice over the family pool and drowns. While this understandably devastates their parents, Laura and Lizzie are quite young when it happens and so, again understandably, aren’t affected as dramatically by Peggy’s death. In fact, a few nights later, they build a snow girl out in the yard and dress her in Peggy’s clothing which unwittingly and perfectly unintentionally, binds her spirit to them.
Only the spirit of young Peggy Buchanan doesn’t manifest as Peggy Buchanan. Rather, she takes the form of a girl from a favorite story which was read to her often by her eldest sister, Lizzie. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen was a rather scary fairy tale and the lost spirit of Peggy Buchanan not only takes the form of the girl from the story, she is also able to manifest the Snow Queen herself when she takes her revenge and the Snow Queen is a frightening entity.
For some reason, spirit Peggy feels that she needs to protect her older sisters. Forever. And by protect, I mean kill and or maim anyone who does them harm, does them wrong or even just gets too close to them. While it’s expected for lost little Peggy to want to take revenge on someone who has hurt one of her sisters, it didn’t really make sense to me that she would feel the need to harm a person who hadn’t actually done anything but help one of them out… or someone who made one of them very happy later in life.
I had two distinctly different feelings while reading this book. The first was that the story was exciting and properly horrifying at times and I couldn’t wait to see what happened next, when Peggy would manifest again, what Lizzie and Laura would do about it. The second, drastically different feeling was that kind of feeling you get when you read the same line over and over, your eyes start to glaze over and you thumb ahead to see how many pages you’ll have to suffer through before the end of the chapter.
While the premise of the story was good —very good, mind, else I’d not have requested the book from the publisher– Masterton either didn’t fully develop his characters to understand what was going as the years passed in the story or he just plain dragged the thing out too long. Way too long. Most likely both as I feel that the book was indeed too long and so there were more glazed eyes inducing scenes than there should have been. Also, the characters were just… well, kind of dense.
There were far too many scenes that made me roll my eyes and sigh in frustration as one of the other of the surviving sisters was utterly clueless in regards to what was going on around them when they’ve had multiple experiences over the course of a decade or more. They know of multiple people who have died of extreme cold: one particular person was frozen during the summer, others were nearly instantly frozen solid and even in winter, that’s something that just doesn’t happen. There were multiple occasions in which the water in a pool suddenly froze and it would even get freezing cold in a house filled with blazing fire places. Yet the sisters didn’t immediately deduce that Peggy’s spirit was there? That was just too unbelievable for me.
While I did enjoy parts of this story immensely, my overall impression was that it wasn’t as entertaining as I had hoped and the characters weren’t at all believable. To be honest, I was somewhat relieved when I finally finished and I most likely won’t read another of Masterton’s books, much less recommend this one.
“Have a care now, you don’t want to go breaking your ankle. Even a phenomenon ain’t worth that.” ~Dan Phillips to Lizzie Buchanan
“There are three worlds, and there always have been. The world of the living. The world of spirits. And the world of the truly rested, the empty world, which is the world of absolute peace.” ~Eusebio the gardener