On a frigid December night, Megan Floyd vanishes from the mountain town of Fraser, Colorado. The extensive search provides no answers and as attention of her disappearance fades, the case goes cold. Her father, Tom Floyd, is forced to confront his worst fear that his daughter will never be found, and soon his life and marriage begin to disintegrate around him.
A year after the disappearance and with no new leads, Tom hires private investigator Marshall York, a former detective, and his assistant Hannah Jacobs. They soon start to uncover the secrets of Megan’s dangerous second life, all while fighting their own demons. Tom is guilt-ridden over a missing child case from his past, and Hannah is haunted by the unsolved murder of her older sister.
The case begins to consume all three of their lives, and as they dig deeper, they start to unravel the dark truth of what happened to Megan.
Plot/Idea: Sterling dives right in and sets an eerie stage as protagonist Tom Floyd searches for his missing daughter. In doing so, he uncovers secrets that pull in more shifty characters. The action moves at an even pace and reveals the truth with a slice of suspense; however, the timeline involving the suspected serial killer could use clarification.
Prose: Well-written and evenly paced, the characters' backstories round out the plot, allowing the reader to understand their hidden motivations. Even though the dialogue feels stiff toward the end of the novel, the plot unraveling is well-executed.
Originality: Utilizing familiar elements of a thriller/mystery to strong effect, Sterling keeps readers guessing with potential leads and dead ends. As the mystery concludes, the plot unfurls in a satisfying manner.
Character/Execution: Each character has a richly developed backstory that enhances the plot; Marshall is a supportive character to Hannah, allowing her to believe in herself, and Tom’s determination pays off as he finds closure—and unearths the truth.
Date Submitted: May 21, 2023
The Fear of Winter, the first in a series, leads readers down a twisted path of mystery and suspense. As Tom and the investigator’s team learn more about Megan’s drug use and the characters and encounters that go with it, Sterling’s richly detailed depictions of the underbelly of the illegal drug trade mesmerize with chilling authenticity—and with much welcome empathy, both for the daughter with shocking secrets and the father facing them at last. (Sterling’s memoir Teenage Degenerate offers an unflinching account of addiction.)
The darkness and cold of the Colorado winter is the perfect setting for the bleakness of the novel as Sterling examines what could make a young woman disappear and the unraveling of a marriage. Sterling hones in on Tom’s continued search for closure, hinting at the simmering undercurrent of hope which, along with his marriage, will likely be shattered if Tom learns that Megan is dead. Yet the aspect of the novel that will likely resonate most with readers is Tom’s consideration of all the things he wants to change about the past which would prevent the horrific events he now faces to learn what happened to his daughter.
Takeaway: A man desperate to find a missing daughter searches for hope in this tense novel.
Great for fans of: Jess Lourey’s The Quarry Girls, Thomas Fincham’s The Dead Daughter.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
Tom Floyd is a distraught parent after his daughter disappears on a cold night in December. His relationship is quickly falling apart, and Tom is worried he will never see his daughter again. Over a year after her disappearance, Tom hires PI Marshall York to try to find his daughter. As York digs, not only does evidence start emerging, but so do some deep, dark secrets.
The Fear of Winter is a dark, harrowing tale of desperation, longing, and pain. Sterling pulls at one of the most human threads - love. What you would do for love and where love can drive you. This book is a slow burn that digs its icy fingers around your wrist and refuses to let you go. You see a tale of family loss, how it destroys two parents and their relationship, and what lengths they will go to in order to get answers about their missing daughter. It's a mystery and thriller all tied into one genius novel.
This novel is a classic missing-persons thriller. I'm a huge fan of detective novels, and this one is right up there with some of the best. It's a perfect winter read that fans of Harlan Coben, Joe Nesbo, and Michael Connelly will love.
By giving plenty of suspense and twists and turns, Sterling does a good job of holding our interest by keeping us guessing about how the story will turn out.