The Observer: Dead of Winter: A Thriller at Ridgefield Farm

Like many Jefferson County locals, I’m a longtime fan of Ridgefield Farm and Orchard. Part if it is my “buy local” eating preference, the other part is the sheer fun of the place. I know that when my kids are adults, they will have fond memories of cutting a Christmas tree, chomping into their favorite apple varieties, gathering armloads of pumpkins, and playing in the pirate ship to the sound of music over the farm market.

So when Alan Gibson of Ridgefield told me he’d penned a thriller called Dead of Winter based at the farm, I thought, “That sounds like fun.” I was so right.

Four young city slickers come to a B&B at the farm for the annual harvest festival. There they encounter country proprietors who at first seem like caricature bumpkins. And then things get a little crazy—and then a lot crazy. And creepy scary.

Next thing I know, it’s well past midnight and I’m tearing through pages, and hear myself saying aloud, “No! Don’t go in that room in the dark,” and “Don’t be an idiot; get out of there now!” It’s that much fun.

Gibson makes excellent use of the farm, too. For people who know the place, there’s enough familiarity to grab your attention, but not so much as to make it about Ridgefield—except your next visit through the corn maze will probably get you looking over your shoulder.

I liked the characters, too. Especially the young urban professionals who, a decade into adulthood, are dealing with the array of issues we all grapple with as the time between school years and the workaday world increases: old friends that become distant, or the careers they’ve chosen aren’t the ones they thought they wanted, a naïve miscalculation in whom to trust.

They are fish out of water, and it gets them into trouble. You could put them into any big city and they’d find a fine cappuccino, but drop them into the countryside without the aid of electronic devices and … well, you have to read Dead of Winter for the rest.

Fans of thrillers will get enough intense action to satisfy them. But this one isn’t crafted on turns and twists of plot. You fly through it to learn whether the characters can overcome their own ghosts in time to avoid the dangers you know await them. You want to know how extensively the macabre web of conspirators is woven, and you want to know why.

Dead of Winter makes for a delightful cold weather read; you’ll find yourself turning on more lights than necessary and periodically checking the locks on the door. It’s also a terrific gift for your out-of-town guests whom you’ve taken to Ridgefield when they visit.

David Lillard, WV Observer