By Jonathan Edward Durham
Fiction/Dark Contemporary Fantasy
Published by: Credo House Publishers, 2021
Via: Author Request
Freedom comes at a price.
Can he afford it?
These questions and more swirl throughout Winterset Hollow, a gut-grabbing, action-packed literary tour de force by Jonathan Edward Durham.
“What do you say? Would you like to be free?”
The Story (sort of)
John Eamon Buckley is joined by his buddy Caroline and her main squeeze, Mark, aboard a boat headed for storied Addington Isle. It’s the setting for a favorite childhood story.
Located off the chilly waters of the Washington coast, Addington Isle was a mecca for glittering circles of literati as well as politicians, actors, artists, and “barons of industry.” The Isle was where everyone who was anyone went to hobnob and party with everyone else. Until the Great Depression hit and author Edward Addington’s “untimely passing emptied the halls of the manor forever.”
Arriving upon the Isle, the trio decides to explore. They soon stumble upon the edge of a hedge maze. They find a spent bullet casing. And a cage. (I’d start running, ‘fize you. But of course they don’t.)
“My dear boy, don’t you know it’s Barley Day?” answered the rabbit cold and unaffected… “You run, Eamon. You run.”
It starts raining. Gets dark. Straining to make it back to the dock and depart the Isle before nightfall, Eamon, Mark, and Caroline become lost. Then they spy a light flickering in the murky distance. Is it coming from the Addington mansion? But wait. The mansion’s long been deserted…
Or Has It?
Or has it? And what’s up with all those marble statues? And buffalo?
There’s no hope beyond the hedge.
Richly textured and multi-layered, Winterset Hollow is fascinating and bracing in a macabre sort of way. Artfully crafted, the story is wrapped in riddles. Engineered with enigmas. Caught up in questions at every turn, with a compass “stuck somewhere between incredulity and fascination.” Think Watership Down disappears down a rabbit hole, links arms with Inkheart and winds up in The Most Dangerous Game. And then some.
If you’re looking for a gentle read, this isn’t it. It’s a “game of friend or foe.” Intense and dripping with suspense and intrigue, the plot pounds across the page like a runaway freight train. Reading it is almost like rubber-necking at a traffic accident. You don’t want to look. But you can’t stop yourself, either. (We won’t be rating this book. It lives outside our usual rating system.)
Everybody loves a coupon.
Have you seen A River Runs Through It? (Brad Pitt, Craig Sheffer, Tom Skerritt, 1992)? It didn’t do well at either the Academy Awards or the box office. Yet it’s one of the most remarkable films I’ve ever seen. Perhaps what’s even more remarkable is the fact that I don’t even like that movie. But I respect it as good art. As a sterling example of fine storytelling. (I loved the Norman Maclean novella upon which it’s based.)
Quite a Ride
That’s my “gut reaction” to Winterset Hollow. It’s feral yet philosophical. Nuanced yet bloody and brutal. Cunning and careful, this debut novel is the kind of book that will leave you gasping for air, aching for an open window, and cinching up your seat belt. It’s quite a ride. In fact, it’s brilliant.
Rabbit image credit: Public Domain.