The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon: Review

Legends, the undead, and revenge come together in The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon.

The Winter People begins as the 1908 published journal of Sara Harrison Shea, Visitors from the Other Side. In the journal, Sara reveals that it is possible to bring the dead back to life. Sara lived with her husband and little girl on a farm in the shadow of the Devil's Hand, a large rock that juts straight out of the land. There are many legends about the Devil's Hand and children are discouraged from playing there. Sara tells of her life and the events that led to her terrible murder and suicide of her husband.

In the present, the Devil's Hand continues to be a sinister legend. Since Sara's death, people witness strange lights and figures in the woods near the rock. Animals and occasionally people would disappear. Sometimes their bodies would turn up and sometimes not. It's a place of fascination for people who believe in aliens and unexplainable phenomena.

Ruthie, her sister, and mother live on the old Shea farm now. Ruthie's mother is a paranoid "off the grid" kind of person, who gets by from selling knitted goods at the local farmers' market. Ruthie, having just graduated, has plans to leave the farm and start her life somewhere, anywhere, else, but when she comes home one night to discover her mother missing, her plans change. When Ruthie finds Sara's journal and other mysterious items hidden in the house, she realizes that her mother has been keeping dangerous secrets.

Dial Z for Zombie, The Simpsons
Hasn't anyone learned by now that NO GOOD CAN COME FROM BRINGING BACK THE DEAD?! Seriously, it's the first rule of horror: don't raise the dead. In The Winter People, these undead are called Sleepers and they can only called back for a short time, but just like you should never feed Mogwai after midnight, there are rules to waking a Sleeper that can't be broken. Sara learned the secret of bringing the dead to life from her "Auntie" whose death she hints at mysteriously. What happened to Auntie? Who was brought back to life? What happened on the farm that ended in the brutal death of Sara?

Meanwhile, Ruthie pieces together parts of her mother's past to find out where she may have gone. Did she leave by choice or was she forced? And if she was kidnapped, who took her?

I listened to The Winter People on audio in just over a day. I could not turn it off. I found Sara's diary and the inner thoughts of Sara, her husband Martin, and their daughter Gertie to be much more interesting than what Ruthie was doing. Of course, what Ruthie discovers helps fill in the gaps of what happened 100 years ago. Just like in Don't Breathe a Word, there are plot twists and red herrings that lead to nowhere. Some of what happens in the present time takes some suspension of disbelief but overall, The Winter People is a creepy tale for a stormy winter night. You'll never look at closets the same way again.

About the Audio: The narrators are Cassandra Campbell and Kathe Mazur and until this moment I thought there was only one narrator. Either I don't play close enough attention to the narrators or they sound a lot alike.


  1. Yeah... I should get this when I get more Audible credits....

  2. Wow, that's a pretty long audio for one day! It must have been terrific!

    1. Yes, I clean when I listen to audiobooks, and I cleaned everything I could to finish it.

  3. This sounds really good and Cassandra Campbell as narrartor is a bonus.

  4. Sounds spooky! Idk if I should read it, I might be too scared...

  5. The premise is done over and over again but I am fascinated with the concept. I laughed at your rule comment. Yes!! Haven't we learned anything? LOL.

  6. This sounds very interesting.....I'll be checking to see if our library has it. A good scary novel sounds just the thing as this winter drags on. Good review, Chris.


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