From back cover: "Jack Harding and his friends feel sorry for the new kid in town, Ronnie Winter, a bit of a weirdo. When the local bullies try to beat him up, Jack and friends step in to protect Ronnie-and that's their first mistake. Ronnie isnot like any other kid they've ever known. He lives at the old Steadman place, in the big creepy mansion that used to be a mental hospital. His beautiful young mother has a strange way of making Jack promise to be Ronnie's friend, forever..."
In the tradition of John Saul, this book is a chilling coming of age story with supernatural tones.
This was rather silly, but still an entertaining novel. There wasn't too much to the plot (and not nearly enough explanation), but there were several very strong characters and some genuinely funny quips back and forth between these rather-old-for-their-age twelve year olds. All in all, this was very reminiscent of Richard Laymon's work (albeit a lot more toned down!). I was on the edge of my seat towards the end, though it was a bit slow to start. The setting added a lot to the book as a whole, giving it a very real, and eerie sense of atmosphere.
Brampton in the early 1980's is a picturesque little town where nothing extraordinary ever happens. When the new kid in town asks Jack Harding and his friends for help, they can hardly refuse the boy. After all, Ronnie Winter is a pleasantly plump kid, quiet, and well...weird. To Jack's way of thinking, Ronnie's strangeness just makes him the prime target for bullying.
Jack and his friends actually feel rather sorry for Ronnie, so they agree to protect him. Jack is convinced it is the right thing to do, to protect those who can't protect themselves. And when the local bullies do try to beat up Ronnie, Jack and his friends step in to stop them - and make their first mistake...
Their first mistake was to underestimate Ronnie Winter, because he is apparently unlike any other kid they've ever known. He lives with his lovely mother Cassie over at the old Steadman place, in the eerie Gothic-style mansion that used to be a mental hospital. And his ethereally beautiful mother has the uncanny ability to make Jack promise to be Ronnie's best friend...forever.
As Brampton starts to experience the coldest winter in its history, the closer Jack and his friends get to Ronnie. A freakishly cold weather pattern sweeps through the town, bringing with it a series of brutal snowstorms which cause the temperature to plummet even lower. And as if the weather conditions weren't bad enough, someone seems to be using the weather to their advantage: the residents of Brampton are being plagued by a series of nightmarishly gruesome murders.
And as the grisly death toll continues to rise, Jack begins to realize something more disturbing about his odd new friend, Ronnie. Ronnie Winter is already protected; surrounded by something far more powerful than an overprotective mother's love. He is being guarded by something almost supernatural - an unspeakably malevolent force that will torture and destroy everything in its path...
I must say that the first thing I noticed about this book when I received it was the eeriness of the cover - Gothic mansions with giant stone lions guarding the door just scream spooky to me, I suppose. Not that I'm complaining in any way, but I just wasn't sure how scary a plot could get with a cast of primarily teenage boys as characters. As the debut novel of a new author for me, I found that the plot was well-developed and satisfyingly creepy. I give this book a B+!
As it turned out, the book was extremely well written and I'm very happy to have read it. In my opinion, this was an intriguing debut; I will definitely be putting this author's name on my Wish List.