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Siggy Gamble is an autistic, savant teen who disappears, leaving behind an awful wound in his sister, Vera, one that is about to be reopened thirteen years later as she learns his body has been found washed up, dead and forlorn on a Maine island. Apparently, there is much to be be feared by Vera as she has shut out the awful experiences she has whenever she allows herself to think too long or dream about her long-lost brother. But love for her sibling prevails and she leaves behind the comfort of her accountant job in which she can lose herself in predictable numbers in order to forget the huge weight of unexplainable memories, visions and prophetic-style warnings that offer nothing but horrific oblivion.
The island's atmosphere in people, topography and attitudes has a distinctly ghostly ambience, one not offering comfort to a grieving Vera. Instead, she find her brother's body has not aged in the thirteen years he's been missing and he is clutching an artifact associated with his childhood love of Vikings and mythological figures, as well as the tag he wore at all times announcing "I am not dangerous." At a bed and breakfast house where Vera stays, she is warned to stay away from the area where her brother's body was found. Indeed, the more she searches for answers the darker the mystery becomes.
Vera's father was a faith healer and the only way Siggy could communicate was by way of Bible verses. In the middle of her memories and fearful search for answers about her brother's life and death, Vera struggles as well with her belief and unbelief in a God who called for unquestioning faith yet seemed totally absent in so many ways around her tortured upbringing. She meets Ethan but is unsure whether he is friend or fiend in the haunted atmosphere of this very unfriendly place.
Winter Haven, a 2009 Christy Award finalist, is a Gothic tale reminiscent of the Daphne DuMaurier novels this reviewer read so many years ago. Athol Dickson is a master at providing just enough twists and turns in the central conflict and surrounding them with the darkest, direst atmosphere possible to totally engulf the reader into this strange, twisted and yet enlightened world!
Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on September 6, 2009