*I received a free electronic copy of WINTERSWIM from the author in exchange for an honest review. I also agreed to take part in a group discussion about this book on Goodreads.*
Pastor Sheldon Long knows better than anyone that there is evil in the world. He is the sole Pastor for his church which is located in the small town of Wasilla, Alaska. Pastor Long is looked up to by the members of the community, who are especially grateful for his dedication to helping troubled teenagers to choose a better path in life. He is so committed to helping these troubled teens that he even conducts one-on-one counselling sessions with a select few.
Pastor Long was raised in seclusion by an abusive religious fanatic father and a quiet Tlingit Indian mother who spent years being beaten by her husband. His father’s obsession with religion shaped the young Sheldon’s view of the world, and not in a good way.
The Pastor is now a widower with a teenage son, to whom he pays very little attention.
As the son of a Pastor, Steven was expected to act a certain way. He had never been the kind of child who got into trouble. At seventeen he still harbored a secret crush on a local girl named Kate who was a few years older and had once been his babysitter. Kate left Wasilla and became an actress, but Steven still thought about her.
When the bodies of two local girls are found in nearby lakes, no one seems to think anything of it. Of course, the town’s residents mourn their passing and appeal to others to be careful around the water. But, Steven seems to think something else is going on.
By the time a third body is discovered, Steven has decided to take it upon himself to discover exactly what is happening in Wasilla. At the same time Kate returns for a visit to her hometown between movie shoots. When she runs into Steven he decides to let her in on his theory.
After that secrets are revealed, dark and horrific truths come to light and Steven is the middle of everything.
Just what is happening in Wasilla? Is there a serial killer on the loose? And if so, who is it? And can the killer be stopped before the death toll rises even higher?
WARNING – This book contains graphic sexual scenes, scenes with violence and instances of drug use. This book is recommended for mature readers only!
I rate this book as 4 out of 5 stars. It is a horror/noir/psychological thriller that will give you nightmares.
POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT – Stop reading this review now if you do not want to read any spoilers about WINTERSWIM.
I found that this book was well written with short, concise sentences and in a no-nonsense style. The rape scenes definitely made me cringe, but I think if a reader dies not cringe while reading a rape scene then there is something wrong.
I think the author did a terrific job of illustrating how living through abuse as a child (both mental and physical) can twist and warp an individual’s Psyche. I think he also did a great job including the use of meth and the affects that drug can have on a person’s behavior. Of course, not all abused children become multiple-murderers and not everyone who uses meth will go out and rape and kill women, but using meth will damage your brain and can cause all kinds of behaviors that could be seen as “crazy.”
Until reading this book I had never heard of the Tlingit Indians and I was fascinated by the myth that was used in this book. I would be interested in learning more about this tribe in the future and possibly even reading a book that includes more aspects of their culture, their beliefs and their mythology.
By choosing a Pastor as the killer, I am sure the author will anger some readers. However, my preemptive response to negative comments on that topic is that obviously Pastor Sheldon Long is not real. Even if we are to take his character at face value, he never did have a true calling to religion. He used religion as a way to feed his own dark desires. In fact, even Pastor Long does not really see himself as a true man of God.’ He states “Say anything with enough confidence and people will fall for it hook, line, and sermon.” That shows that he was using the Church as a means to an end. His position as Pastor gave him unprecedented access to vulnerable young women. Unfortunately this tactic has been used by predators for many years. Predators seek out positions that give them authority over their potential victims in real life just like Sheldon Long does in this book. The one part of this plot line that I disliked was how quickly he was able to coerce the girls into having sex and smoking meth with him. Generally predators groom their victims over a long period of time. I had a hard time believing that all these teenage girls were so quick to jump into bed with him. This might have been believable if it was a single girl, but multiple young teenage girls, all living in the same small town, all willing to get high and have sex with an ‘old’ man, it defies belief (and probability). However, I do see that it was a necessary plot point.
I did love the descriptions of Wasilla and the surrounding area. The author’s descriptions of small-town Wasilla, Alaska comes across as so real because the author actually grew up in the town that this book is based on. I loved that Kate was always seen as a ‘city girl’ despite being raised in Wasilla due to the fact that she did not like ATVing, fishing, skiing or hunting. This is typical of attitudes in remote locales. Locals cannot fathom why anyone wouldn’t love doing all those types of activities. This detail adds one more note of authenticity to the story.
In conclusion, this book is worth reading as long as you are not easily offended or easily shocked.
Favorite Quote From The Book: “He wondered if there was an ‘Autopsies For Dummies book.”
In conclusion, this book is worth reading.
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