“A Twisted Maze of Fright” – Baltimore Out Loud – 2016

A Twisted Maze of Fright

Written by Megan Sandwick

A.B. Gibson’s ability to paint a vivid picture with words that you can literally feel as you read draws you in to his latest thriller, The Dead of Winter, from the start. The detailed description of the Winters’ farm, family, and orchard makes it feel like someplace you know from countless fall visits. I was almost able to smell the apples, see the families picking out the pumpkins, and feel my heart beat faster as the plot picks up.

Gibson has a knack for casually introducing details and elements into the story that later turn out to be elements in a twisted plan. The foundation of the story is four friends meeting for a weekend getaway at a quaint orchard and farm celebrating the end of their annual six-week pumpkin festival. I mean what could possibly go wrong?

Josh and Julia are a married couple that bicker endlessly. Dillon and Tara are single friends who love to travel, experience adventures together, and were smart enough to bring wine along not realizing the only thing they could drink during their stay was Ma’s cider. But it becomes clear quickly that all is not right at the pumpkin festival. A fifth friend who was supposed to come is a no-show.

While the others think nothing of this, we are introduced to a pattern of too-quick answers, cover-ups, and distractions from owners “Ma” and “Pa” who can’t shake an air of eeriness. The four friends are clueless about what is happening and the horror that awaits. Almost too clueless, as disappearing guests pile up… though I understand their idiocy is important to the story. While it seems the ending was developed with the intention of leaving the story open for future installments I felt there were too many unresolved elements and answers.

When Julia, Josh, Tara, and Dillon figured out their futures were in danger and started to fight for their lives, I would have liked more details about some of the shocking truths that were revealed about this twisted and demented family.

This fast-paced thriller is filled with action, blood, and truly disturbing images that keep your mind fascinated and engaged throughout the story. The Dead of Winter is a captivating quick read to pass a lazy afternoon.