Doubleday/Penguin Random House, $24.95, 205 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-53997-5
It won’t officially be winter until the Twenty-first of December when the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year, happens. Mother Nature says otherwise. It’s been cold, gray and low freezing temperatures for some weeks in many parts of the country . . . a great time to start your personal reading program . . . and we’ve got an eerie, shocking and suspenseful psychological thriller to kick it off with.
The Winter Girl, by Matt Marinovich is a dark, treacherous and sinister tale that’s a great deal like the work of Jim Thompson . . . cut-to-the-quick lean word usage, and chock-full of irredeemable characters. Maybe despicable would be a better descriptor, because as the story progresses and the characters are revealed, it quickly becomes apparent that they all have monstrous tendencies and vicious flaws. Nothing is as it first appears . . . no one is what they’re supposed to be in this relentless novel of mystery and deceit.
As the book begins, it’s winter. A young married couple named Elise and Scott have taken up residence in her father’s house in the Hamptons, the tony part of Long Island’s north shore, so they’ll be close to the hospital where her father is slowly dying. Elise, a speech therapist by occupation, spends her days there, comforting the dying man. Scott, a professional photographer by trade, occupies himself by taking walks on the beach, moping around the house and spying on the place next door. After noticing the lights going on and off every night at the exact same time, in the exact same rooms, Scott determines that the neighbors home is empty and, on a whim, breaks in. It’s such a rush, he goes back and does it again. And again. And again. And then convinces Elise to go with him on another break-in where, in a misguided attempt to spice up their failing marriage, they end up doing a marital act in a downstairs bedroom and make a terrible discovery . . . setting themselves up for a series of bad decisions . . . causing their lives to spiral down in an ever tightening cycle of doom.
The twists and surprises never end in this fiendishly clever tale. Readers won’t be able to stop themselves from just one more chapter as all the characters reveal their secret flaws. Page. By. Page. By Page!