We have already established that I like chubby books. Trollope and Dickens won me over at an early age and that was that. Sorry to say that not only do I judge a book by it's cover but by it's page count as well. Enter author Kate Mosse. First came Labyrinth 528 pages. Book two was Sepulchre at 592 pages. I was thrilled to learn that Mosse had a new book out in February. Might it be 600 pages? 620? I couldn't wait. Could you hear my wail of disbelief and dismay when I got the book?
It's 288 pages? Are you nutting me? What is this a short story? And. And The Winter Ghosts is a stand alone novel, not part of the series that ties Labyrinth and Sepulchre. Is this my beautiful life? Is Kate Mosse mad at me?
Of course I read it anyway. I completely hearted Mosse's other two novels too much to let skinniness deter me. How grown up am I?
The Winter Ghosts starts like a classic spook tale with the arrival of a stranger. In 1928 Freddie Watson enters a bookshop in Toulouse clutching a letter written in a dead language. He then tells the shocked bookseller his story. Watson had not been able to get past his adored brother's death during WWI. After ten years of grieving, confusion, drifting and a mental breakdown he finds himself driving through the Pyrenees in yet another attempt at a cure or at least a diversion. It's snowy, there's a crash and then a touch of Lost Horizon, Wuthering Heights, Brigadoon, ancient French history, a beautiful woman, Medieval celebrations, locked towers, persecution and a ghost too.
You cannot help but compare The Winter Ghosts to its predecessor as you read it. From that point of view the plot is a bit predictable, but still satisfying. Looking at the novel as a stand alone it fairs better. Mosse does an especially good job when writing about Watson's grieving. You can feel the weight of his bereavement and his self loathing at being the one to survive and not being able to master his emotions and move on. We already know how capable Mosse is at moving her novels between the centuries while maintaining our interest in both eras. The descriptive settings and historical tidbits that Mosse drops in the story are just as captivating as they are in her full size novels.
If you are a fan of Kate Mosse, fear not! If you have wanted to try Kate Mosse but you aren't a lover of doorstop size novels give The Winter Ghosts a try. Mosse has a strong sense of dramatic timing and is an exceedingly good, old fashion storyteller.
So...thanks Kate Mosse for giving me something very gratifying to tide me over until the last of the Languedoc Trilogy, Citadel comes along in September 2011.