When Cass Jennings is asked to help bring back the body of a colleague from the Antarctic ice, she assumes the death was down to a moment of carelessness in a hostile environment. But when the power briefly fails part way into the long Antarctic winter, then returns just as the crew get hysterical, Cass smells a rat – like a lab rat. Someone is testing the supposedly stable scientific minds, measuring how they respond to stress.
The stakes are suddenly raised by a series “accidents” which even the station commander can’t explain. Who is causing the mayhem? And does Cass have the inner strength to escape the deadly trap? Michael Iden’s novel “The Winter Over” explores how individuals and groups respond to extreme stress – and it isn’t pretty. All kinds of hidden demons lead to a mixture of fight and flight responses.
The story is generally well told, keeping gripping the reader and providing a few red herrings. However, I found there were too many points of view. As each situation unfolded, we seemed to get a glimpse into the murky past of half the station crew. Whilst this helped explain the complexity of the situation, it meant that some of the back stories had to be resolved rather abruptly, with a rapidly escalating body count.
I suspected the real villain early in the story, but was only confident by about two thirds through – which I reckon is a good point for satisfaction. However, the reveal was a bit disappointing – the usual ploy of mentioning a detail Cass had never spoken of. But the killer immediately admitted the error. From here to the end, it seemed that Iden was rushing towards a deadline whilst trying to save his heroin.
However, if you enjoy psychological (and psychopathic) thrillers and can overlook these writing flaws, you’ll enjoy The Winter Over.
 Michael Iden (2007), The Winter Over, Seattle: Thomas and Mercer