Thriller: Jennifer McMahon: “The Winter People” (c) 2014.

“The Winter People” by Jennifer McMahon is a gripping and haunting mystery thriller, its suspense heightened by a tangled web of reality and the supernatural. Can the dead return to the living world as real people?

The story is set in West Hall, a small New England town in Vermont, a town haunted by strange disappearances and mystifying legends. The story unfolds along two timelines – 1908 and the present day.

In 1908, Sara Harrison Shea, 31, was found murdered at her family farmhouse. Her niece, Amelia Larkin, discovers Sara’s hidden diaries & journals. As a young girl, Sara was cared for by “Auntie” a Canadian Native woman from Quebec, after Sara’s mother died in childbirth. “Auntie” spoke of portals through which the dead could return to the world of the living.

Sara was grief-stricken when her young daughter, Gertie, was found dead at the bottom of a deep well. Gertie had dreams of meeting dead people whom she called “winter people,” dead people wandering at the edge of real life.

In her journals, Sara wrote of her longing to bring Gertie back from the dead. Sara claimed that people could really come back from the dead, that “Auntie” had given her written instructions on summoning the dead, and directions to a portal in the woodlands near the West Hall farmhouse.

Amelia published Sara’s journals & diaries as a book, “Visitors from the Other Side – The Secret Diary of Sara Harrison Shea.” She could not find any of Auntie’s written instructions on summoning the dead or where the portal was located. People read the book, and anyone finding the missing pages stood to make a fortune.

Present Day:

Ruthie Washbourne, 19, lives in West Hall, in Sara’s old farmhouse, together with her mother Alice and younger sister Fawn. One day, Alice disappears, without a trace. Ruthie is puzzled. This is unlike her mother. Ruthie decides to wait a few days, perhaps her mother will return soon.

Ruthie and Fawn search the house for clues about their mother’s disappearance. And they find a copy of “Visitors from the Other Side – The Secret Diary of Sara Harrison Shea.” Ruthie is fascinated.

Ruthie and Fawn’s lives take a sudden turn into a terrifying and perilous experience. Two women turn up at the farmhouse on a cold wintry night. Both have lost loved ones. Candace lost her brother in West Hall. Katherine’s husband Gary died in a car accident on the highway to Boston, after a puzzling stop in West Hall. Both Candace and Katherine have read “Visitors from the Other Side – The Secret Diary of Sara Harrison Shea.”

A fantastic well-crafted chilling thriller!