Review: Winter (A Crow Creek Novel) by Thomas Drago

Winter by Thomas Drago★★★★★

With the third installment of the Crow Creek series, author Thomas Drago brings yet another high-octane story arc to his fans. After the Red Queen has been brought down, Amanda Simmons has rebuilt Carolina Entech, the corporation that built alliances with Carolina Energy and even the US Army. Now she’s hoping to bring back a powerful nuclear air carrier by harnessing the power of the sun. But things are about to get very weird very quickly, and yet again Sheriff Gleason of Crow Creek is going to have a fight on his hands – with mortality, this time in the town of Winter, a town that has deep-rooted class and race issues hanging over from the 1960s, as well as a very difficult case of ritual magic that many folks are going to have a tough time coming to terms with as the rules of the universe are about to be bent and broken in the name of greed.

North Carolina is an interesting setting for such a story, and as usual in the these books, the “True Detective”/“Walking Dead”/Stephen King small-town horror vibe in the midst of a massive world event, in this case the reinvention of the zombie trope whereby the dead are reanimated by a solar pulse. Is there such a genre as Cozy Dystopian Murder Horror? This is it. Biblical undertones give way to grisly murder, bloody mayhem, and other-worldly elements take center stage as the fun really begins.

This series is an original cocktail of beloved themes. Mentioned previously, the small-town horror feel is very slowly entered into, first Drago is careful to build up a realistic slew of characters, with Bible-thumping and local mentality before letting rip with, “Not everybody is privy to the secret workings of the universe…” as we meet The Sleepers, mysterious cloaked figures, slumbering on an airfield…Add in a JFK assassination riddle with maybe a nod to Stephen King’s time-traveling romance thriller, 11/22/63, mixed with characters with names like, “Black Jesus” and “Bishop Lundby” and the supernatural element, the book will suck readers in and not let go until its contents have been devoured. Drago is clever here by keeping chapters micro-short and pithy, so there’s little opportunity to put the book down after the next chapter!

The book is probably one of Drago’s best so far in terms of technical ability. The skill Drago is honing with this series can be felt in each sequence. He cuts all sentences down to the bone, leaving short bursts of prose, but then fleshes with story, exactly how this sort of book should be written. He even (rightly) dispenses with dialog tags in favor of tight description, which is a joy to read and paces the book’s action beautifully. Writing is taut and considered – the opening line is magnificent, drawing the reader closer in to look around, each word chosen for its sound:

Pastor Aken dragged the limp teenager out of the passenger seat of his blood-red Chevy Corvair.

It’s a dark, unflinching story with elements of violence and horror that go deep and authentically to the imagination and fester, so in that regard some more inexperienced horror/murder readers may find gory as hell and not just a little bit disturbing. But that’s the point of this sort of book, isn’t it? And Drago is already well on his way to mastering his chosen subject in that regard. Recommended.

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Winter: A Crow Creek Novel