The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Not being a huge fan of the whole bloodline conspiracy genre, I was pleased that The Winter Ghosts doesn't touch on that. Instead, this story of loss and coming to grips with one's personal grief is solely about ghosts. Freddie's brother George is killed during World War I, part of the dead generation. As the second son, Freddie feels his loss greatly and on the day he turns 21 has a breakdown.
Ten years later, the grief hasn't lifted although Freddie seems to be able to deal with it a little better. Both parents are now dead and he's decided to take a trip through the Continent. A storm hits as he's heading towards some friends, his car crashes (deus ex machina, anyone?) and he is stranded in a tiny town, Nulle, on the eve of their great fête. He's also getting sick, so what happens next could be illness or visitation or... you figure it out.
At the fête he meets Fabrissa, a lovely girl with whom he strikes up a friendship and to whom he tells his tale of woe. In return, she tells him of the town's massacre, being walled up into a cave by the invading army; Freddie takes this to be the Germans, despite there being no German activity in that region. A feverish night or so later, he and two mechanics go to rescue his car - he also intends to search for the mountainside tomb. Of course he finds it, and the truth about Fabrissa's death sinks in: she was killed as part of the Cathar repression (Mosse's passion).
The pacing and the mixture of past and present work well, as does the message of overcoming grief by doing something to honor your dead. What didn't work, and what dropped this from a 4 to a 3, was her comparison of this to Masada. There's simply no comparison between a town being walled up into a cave and left to die and a group actively committing suicide rather than surrender. None.
ARC provided by publisher.
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