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The Winter Guest: The perfect chilling, gripping mystery as the nights draw in

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The Winter Guest by W.C. Ryan was published January 6th with Zaffre Books and is described as ‘a gripping and atmospheric murder mystery with a classic feel’. I thoroughly enjoyed A House of Ghosts by W.C. Ryan so I was thrilled when the opportunity came my way to read a copy of The Winter Guest, courtesy of Gill Hess. In 1921 the RIC and the Auxiliary forces were unforgiving of the guerrilla tactics employed by the IRA. Spies infiltrated all sides and Tom Harkin is soon entrenched in a cat and mouse game of survival. Trust was a very important tool but who to give it to was a dangerous act easily resulting in torture and death if the wrong ear overheard a conversation. Tom Harkin is unsettled as he takes in the decay of Kilcolgan House, a house very much in decline from when he had been there in previous happier times. There is an air of unease, a threatening atmosphere that is heightened by his visions of the dead. Are these apparitions just the imagination of an overwrought person or is there something of the supernatural afoot? To begin with, the first chapter (after the introduction) sets the story in 1940. And then Sam Rosen shows up. Sam is a downed American airman in the Polish countryside. It did make good, interesting reading and I wanted to see what happened, although at times it was a little unbelievable. For example, getting in touch with the resistance itself was a little too easy to be believed. There are events that happen after the end of the main story which are only revealed in the epilogue, almost as one liners really. Although these events wrap up the story well, they just did not have that ring of believability to them. There was something dangerous about him. There was something enigmatic about him that made her want to follow him into his strange unknown world.’

Don’t miss Pam Jenoff’s new novel, Code Name Sapphire , a riveting tale of bravery and resistance during World War II. The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly. One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.Working undercover, Harkin must delve into the house's secrets—and discover where, in this fractured, embattled town, allegiances truly lie. But Harkin too is haunted by the ghosts of the past and by his terrible experiences on the battlefields. Can he find the truth about Maud's death before the past—and his strange, unnerving surroundings—overwhelm him? Life is a constant struggle for the eighteen-year-old Nowak twins as they raise their three younger siblings in rural Poland under the shadow of the Nazi occupation. The constant threat of arrest has made everyone in their village a spy, and turned neighbor against neighbor. Though rugged, independent Helena and pretty, gentle Ruth couldn’t be more different, they are staunch allies in protecting their family from the threats the war brings closer to their doorstep with each passing day. Life is a constant struggle for the eighteen-year-old Nowak twins as they raise their three younger siblings in rural Poland under the shadow of the Nazi occupation. The constant threat of arrest has made everyone in their village a spy, and turned neighbor against neighbor. Though rugged, independent Helena and pretty, gentle Ruth couldn't be more different, they are staunch allies in protecting their family from the threats the war brings closer to their doorstep with each passing day. I loathed, with an extreme passion, Ruth. What a horrid woman. I wanted to gouge her eyes out and sadly, she's half the story. Helena and Ruth are twin sister from a small village in Poland during the WWII. With their mother hospitalized they had to start taking care of their three younger siblings. The war is getting closer and supplies are scarce. Things are very dangerous and people are disappearing everyday. As the sisters struggle in their daily life, the rivalry and jealousy between them affects some of their actions and might prove dangerous after Helena saves an American solider and tries to help him.

Perhaps a lukewarm or even an aimless plot can be excused if were to be redeemed by another facet of the novel. This, however, was not the case. The writing is hardly refined artistry; in fact, it’s amateur. Working undercover, Harkin must delve into the house’s secrets – and discover where, in this fractured, embattled town, each family member’s allegiances truly lie. But Harkin too is haunted by the ghosts of the past and by his terrible experiences on the battlefields. Can he find out the truth about Maud’s death before the past – and his strange, unnerving surroundings – overwhelm him?An 18-year-old Polish girl falls in love, swoons over a first kiss, dreams of marriage—and, oh yes, we are in the middle of the Holocaust. While identical in outward appearance, Helena and Ruth are actually as different as chalk and cheese. Helena is a bit of a tomboy and was her father’s companion of choice when it came to hunting expeditions and performing tasks around the home. Ruth has always been regarded as the prettier of the two and is the one imbued with the more traditionally feminine traits – so the pair has fallen into the roles of male and female parents, with Ruth responsible for running the home and the bulk of the child-rearing, while Helena chops wood, fixes things, and hunts for food.

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