"Woman in White" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by DarkFuse
Written by Kristin Dearborn
2016, 139 pages, Fiction
Released on February 28th, 2016
Everyone probably knows the urban legend/ghost story of the mysterious lady in white. If you don't, basically it goes that someone (usually a man) is driving down a lonely road in the middle of the night (sometimes in pretty bad weather, sometimes not) and sees a young lady (most of the time in white) walking on the side of the road. Being the good and concerned citizen, they pick her up and she gives them an address and not much else. When they get to location, they turn to their passenger (sometimes in the back seat, sometimes in the front), who has remained quiet the entire ride outside of the earlier directions, only to find they have disappeared! The driver then finds out from the home owners that the girl was their daughter/sister/loved one who died ON THAT VERY NIGHT after being hit by a car or something similar. Sometimes the house is abandoned and they find out from old newspapers. Either way, that's the gist, and that's how Kristin Dearborn's Woman in White starts...but in this version, the men who pick up the mysterious lady end up exploding in a sea of blood and body parts.
I was first introduced to Dearborn's work with Trinity, which I had received through DarkFuse's book club (which, if you are a reader and lover of horror, you really need to look into it). I'm not a huge sci-fi fan, but Trinity still held my attention due to its darkness and wonderful characters. When Woman in White dropped from the club, I made a mental note to put that closer to the top of my "to read" pile. However, once she shared her Top 10 Winter Horror Novels with us, it went all the way to the top simply because I loved her choices. Is that a good reason? I don't know, but if really like an author's book choices, I tend to like their own work. Plus, like I said, I liked Trinity. It was a good choice to move that book to the top.
Woman in White opens wonderfully. Dennis is driving to town during a snowstorm when he sees a woman in a catatonic state in the middle of the road. Being the good guy that he is, he stops to assist. Of course he goes missing, and when his car is found, the interior is painted in blood. Thing is, he's not the only man who's gone missing in the small town of Rocky Rhodes, Maine. Seems disappearing males is a thing in this town. Oh, and there's also a snow storm to contend with during all of this. Good times.
The novella excels in a lot of areas, most noticeably the sense of isolation and dread that permeates throughout. Dearborn makes exceptional use of the incoming blizzard that is threatening the town, and you can easily believe that these people, especially the men, are doomed. There's nowhere to escape from either the blizzard or the thing hunting them, and there's no one to turn to for help. This is a favorite plotline of mine, this apocalyptic-but-not-really situation the townspeople are in, not unlike what you see in The Shining, The Thing, 30 Days of Night, and other media of this type. The idea that you are so close to help yet so far away terrifies me.
Dearborn also does a great job in telling the same story from multiple points of view. There are plenty of characters in this novella, and each is witnessing something different. This is a great way to unfold the mystery without spoon-feeding you the details. And, like most great authors, just when one character's really pulls you in, Dearborn wisely shifts gears and goes to another character, keeping you on your toes throughout.
The only disappointing thing with Woman in White is the characters themselves. While all are interesting and you do root for those needing to rooted for, they are also very, very cookie cut. I can give some leeway because this is a novella with quite a few residents running about the town, but there isn't a stand out in the bunch. However, at its core, the piece is a monster novel, so characters really aren't necessary to be three dimensional, but since the rest of Woman in White fires on all cylinders, rounded-out people would have been nice icing on the cake.
Kristin Dearborn has given me another reason to dread winter in Woman in White. The characters may be a little hollow, but you'll forget that once you get lost in the town of Rocky Rhodes.