In the small town of Wyalusing in eastern Pennsylvania, a woman is found brutally murdered one winter night. Next to the body is Danny Bedford, a misunderstood man who suffered a tragic brain injury that left him with limited mental capabilities. Despite his simple life, his intimidating size has caused his neighbors to ostracize him out of fear of what he may do. So when the local bully-turned-deputy discovers Danny with the body, it’s obvious that Danny’s physical strength has finally become deadly. But in the long, freezing night that follows, the murder is only the first in a series of crimes that viciously upset the town order–an unstoppable chain of violence that appears to make Danny’s guilt undeniable. With the threat of an approaching blizzard, the local sheriff and a state trooper work through the predawn hours to restore some semblance of order to Wyalusing. As they investigate one unspeakable incident after another, they discover an intricate web of lies revealing that not everything is quite what it seems.

Set deep in the heart of rural Pennsylvania, Deep Winter hits you with the toxic blast of Frank Bill, combined with the raw emotional intensity of Daniel Woodrell. Focusing on the confusion wrought in the aftermath of a brutal murder in a small town community, with a cast of characters ranging from the good to the exceedingly bad, this is a book that has more than a shock or two in store for the unsuspecting reader…

The defining characteristic of Gailey’s writing is his incredibly natural and fluid portrayal of his protagonists. Ostensibly the book is centred on Danny, a middle aged man who has suffered not only an extreme personal tragedy, but also having to deal day-to-day with life in the shadow of his learning disabilities. As we are offered snapshots of Danny’s life both now and in the past, we bear witness to the bullying and ostracising he has experienced within this small community. Having formed a heart-warming connection with the sassy Mindy- now a  waitress in the local diner- from a young age, Danny finds himself at the centre of a manhunt after her murder. As he is pursued doggedly by the local law enforcement, one of whom is actually responsible for this brutal crime, we see his life descend into a tailspin, with the blurring of his perception of reality, as past and present become confused in his mind. Gailey’s portrayal of Danny is both emotive and affecting and as a reader you are rooting for him throughout with a sense of extreme indignation at the persecution of this simple soul. Likewise, the bad guys in this book are thoroughly bad, in particular the dastardly Deputy Sokowski -what a rotter- provoking a strong sense of disgust at both their actions, and the lengths they will go to in condemning Danny for a crime he did not commit. As Danny is pursued by the evil Sokowski, the empathetic Sheriff Lester and an alcoholic State Trooper, Bill Taggart, a man haunted by more than a few demons of his own, the scene is set for a violent denouement that’ll blow your socks off, You’ll either love or hate the slightly overblown Tarantino-esque ending, but I thought it was good fun. Yes, I know…

So, compounded by the use of location, and the unrelenting chill of winter that seems to seep into your very marrow as the book progresses, I  enjoyed this violent tale of murder with its detours into the emotional core of its characters. A nice find if you like your crime fiction with a bit more punch.

Samuel W. Gailey was raised in a small town in northeast Pennsylvania (population 379), which serves as the setting for his debut novel, ‘Deep Winter’. Drawn to rural life and the sometimes deceiving atmosphere therein, Gailey’s first novel and his works in progress are suspenseful mysteries and intriguing studies of human nature. Before writing novels, he worked in film production and eventually became a screenwriter, writing and developing shows for Showtime and Fox. He has also been published in “Documentary Magazine”. He currently resides in Los Angeles with his daughter and wife, author Ayn Carrillo-Gailey:  www.samuelwgailey.com Follow on Twitter @SamuelWGailey

(I read an ARC of Deep Winter downloaded in digital format www.netgalley.com )

Advertisements