Thursday 18 August 2016



A fast-paced, darkly funny crime novel set in Interior Alaska that follows down-on-his-luck cabbie, Mike Fisher, as he searches for his daughter. Her step-father has been shot in her bathroom, and Fisher thinks she killed him and fled. In a panic he tries to hide the body, but that's not easy when it's fifty-below outside. Things get dangerously complicated when it turns out step-dad was part of a local militia, and now they're on Fisher's tail. Dead of Winter evokes the harshness of winter in the ---sub-arctic and the intrigue fostered in a bored, trapped and socially circumscribed small-town community.

A cracking read from July – Gerri Brightwell’s Dead of Winter.

Mike Fisher is a cab driver in minus 57 degrees Alaska. He’s having a bit of a bad time of late……his wife left him a few years ago, he’s disconnected from his daughter Bree and he’s permanently on his step-mum Ada’s sh**-list. He’s having himself a bit of a pity party… contemplating death on the icy roads.

He thinks what he’d leave behind. Not much: a dingy trailer beside his hardly-built house, a sulky troubled teenage daughter, an ex-wife who’s reinvented herself right out of remembering she ever loved him once upon a time. I’m not a has-been, he thinks, I’m a never-was, a two-hundred-and-forty-pound sad sack, a Class A freaking loser.   

I like Mike.

Mike’s soon got reason for despair – he’s missed a phone call from his daughter, but has a panicked voice-mail. When he calls back she doesn’t pick-up and when he turns up at her home, he finds her step-dad Brian naked and very dead in her bathroom. If he hadn’t already been shot, Mike probably would have done the deed himself. What's Brian doing naked in his teenage daughter's bathroom?

Enlisting a friend, Grisby ……Grisby’s the kind of friend you can’t necessarily count on……though what kind of friend is that? ……..the pair dump the body and Mike sets out to track his daughter down.  

A dead cop is later discovered at step-dad Brian's home and while Mike is hunting Breehan, the local gun-nut militia are hunting Mike, thinking he can lead them to Brian.

Love of family proves to be a compelling incentive. One which rouses Mike from his torpor and gives him back some purpose.

Great setting – harsh and brutal, Alaska, minus 57 degrees, ice, cold, snow – I had to put my coat on to read it!

Great cast of characters – Mike obviously and the other standout for me was the step-mother Ada. She literally jumps off the page, a minor character in many respects, I absolutely loathed her

You’d think after all these years Fisher’d be used to the sight of her, but he isn’t. She’s all wrong, as wrong as the motel she runs with his dad with its phony antique clock in the reception area, and its vases of silk flowers, the cheap prints of Denali on the wall, the warm stink of her cigarettes beneath the fake-vanilla scent of air-freshener and, worst of all, the cheery Hi there she croaks out to guests. Every time he sets foot in the place he wants to tell her, you’re not fooling anyone.

But maybe she knows that and wants her hardness to shine out like a warning.

An enjoyable outing in the hands of English author, Gerri Brightwell

Brightwell is the author of a couple of previous books -  Cold Country (2002), The Dark Lantern (2008) - and is a Professor at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. There's an author bio here.

4 from 5

Thanks to Salt Publishing for the copy.


  1. Sounds like an interesting protagonist, Col. And the Alaska setting is interesting, too. And I do like a novel with a bit of wit in it. Glad you enjoyed this.

    1. I had two reading visits to Alaska in the month and while I really enjoyed the settings, I would never want to live there! I don't do COLD!
      Ticks in plenty of boxes here, Margot.

  2. Hm. Must see if I can lay hands on omne of her earlier books. This sounds like a lot of fun.

    1. The Dark Lantern might be your cup of tea, but probably not mine. I'd be more tempted by this than both of the others to be honest.

    2. I meant to say - if you didn't know already, her husband is Ian Cameron Esslemont, who writes fantasy novels. (Not someone on my radar to be honest, but you may be familiar with him.)

  3. Dark Lantern sounds more my kind of book too. I had to do a doubletake and work out that the author isn't a former Spice Girl (Geri Haliwell...)

    1. Yes you're probably right - sort an upstairs/downstairs mystery. Give me present day Alaska any time please. I'm sure if Geri Haliwell does write a novel, you'll be first in the queue!

  4. This sounds very good, Col. I will have to look into this author.

    1. I think you might enjoy it. Doesn't Glen like weather extremes in his books? -57 sounds extreme to me!