LENGTH: 60-80k words (311 pages)
PUBLISHED THROUGH: Create Space, Smashwords
Carol Ingram flees an abusive relationship and runs to Winter, Oregon, the small town (population 53) where she'd spent summers as a girl. Gradually, with the support of Winter's warm-hearted residents, Carol begins to recover, physically and emotionally. As she settles into the rhythm of life in Winter, reconnecting with her childhood friends and rekindling an incipient adolescent romance with Will-- cut short by a violent incident that continues to haunt her--Carol begins seeing hope for a new start to her life.
But all is not as serene as it seems in this sleepy community in the foothills of the Blue Mountains. News stories of a serial killer, his victim's bodies found in streams and rivers, get closer and closer to home, and horrors from both her recent and distant past resurface threaten Carol's newfound sense of security.
"A Place Called Winter" is loaded with suspense at every turn: will Carol's stalker-ex find her, and will she survive that encounter? What happened between her, Will, and his abusive stepfather that triggered her family's move from Winter seventeen years earlier? When a local woman disappears, suspicion is cast on "every male over the age of sixteen," including Will. Has the serial killer come to Winter, or was he here all along?
Interspersed throughout Carol's story are scenes from the unnamed killer's perspective. Quaempts paints a complete and thoroughly terrifying picture of a twisted, but highly intelligent psychopath. In only a few, short chapters, this man becomes the stuff of nightmares. Despite the reader knowing all about the killer's background, targets, and MO, Quaempts keeps enough ambiguity, and garners enough emotional attachment to all of the town's characters, that guessing "whodunnit" is a challenge right up until his identity is revealed. And the bone-chilling terror doesn't end there.
With beautiful, evocative descriptions of the scenery, leisurely passages depicting Carol's return to some semblance of a normal existence, and the slow-tempo of small-town life, the pace and style are close to literary, but when that serenity is shattered, it's with terrifying (and disturbing) explosions of action that will have the reader on the edge of their seat. At times, the pace lags and the transition from high psychological and physical intensity to more lyrical descriptions of scenes around Winter are jarring. The juxtaposition of the elegant prose, reflecting the pace to life in Winter, with gut-wrenching violence, ultimately adds to the emotional rollercoaster ride Quaempts delivers from beginning to end.
"A Place Called Winter" is a great read for anyone who likes a well-plotted psychological thriller with loads of mystery, and plots within subplots, all woven into a lovely, spine-tingling whodunnit that keeps the reader guessing and second-guessing right to the end. Some graphic descriptions of abuse and violence against women make this one for the squeamish to pass on, though. It is disturbing.
5 out of 5 stars. I'd originally planned to give "A Place Called Winter" 4.5 stars because of the uneven pacing, but the story stayed with me long after I finished. I read it a second time to determine why and found myself even more drawn into the story and characters than the first time around. That earned it a place among the Top Picks.
Buy it on Amazon
Find it on Smashwords
Judith Quaempts will be a Featured Author in the First Draft Series at Pendleton Arts Center
Where: Pendleton, OR
When: 7 a.m, Sept 17, 2014