The Winter Foundlings (Alice Quentin Series)
by Kate Rhodes
Cover Artist: Tulips by Foryouinf / Shutterstock;
Ice by Robert Jones / Arcangel Images
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250014320
Date: 24 February 2015 List Price $27.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
A prison for the criminally insane, Northwood is located in the secluded village of Charndale. Alice moves into Ivy Cottage, which is rumored to be haunted. Her former heartthrob, DCI Don Burns, convinces her to interview one of the prisoners, Louis Kinsella, who abducted and murdered young girls. A maniac in London appears to by continuing Kinsella's work; they are abducting, starving, and beating orphaned girls and dumping their corpses into the winter snow. One of the victims is found on the steps of the Foundling Museum, London's first orphanage. Alice races against time to save the life of one of his latest abductees, Ella Williams.
Kate Rhodes is the queen of atmospheric suspense. Her murder mysteries are extremely creepy and intriguing. Rhodes's latest novel, The Winter Foundlings (following the highly acclaimed A Killing of Angels and Crossbones Yard) is her best one yet. Everything about it is superb. The setting, characters, and plot blend seamlessly together to form an extremely intriguing novel that made it nearly impossible for me to lay it aside. This is probably due to the fact that I love all horror and mystery literature that has a Christmas setting. The deep snow, the isolation of a haunted country cottage, and a prison occupied by dangerous lunatics add to the bleakness and despair. A vast number of the employees at Northwood appear to be as emotionally disturbed as the patients in their care. One of them, theorizes Alice, is connected to the Foundling Museum and has been working closely with Kinsella.
While reading The Winter Foundlings, I kept thinking of Thomas Harris's The Silence of the Lambs. The plots are similar. Louis Kinsella reminds me of Hannibal Lecter. Kinsella has a slick tongue; he is a dangerous manipulator who loves to emotionally and physically torment those around him. He begins craving Alice's company; because of her small, diminutive stature, she probably reminds him of a little girl. Alice keeps imploring Kinsella to reveal the killer's identity; however, he refuses. Instead, he gives her hints. While Alice reminds Kinsella of his victims, he reminds her of her abusive, alcoholic father.
Furthermore, Kinsella was the headmaster at an orphanage and it may be one of his former charges who is now killing. Hannibal Lecter was a psychiatrist and it may be one of his former patients who is abducting young women, starving them, and removing their skins.
Alice has matured much, both professionally and psychologically, since Kate Rhodes's first novel, Crossbones Yard. She is stepping out of her comfort zone; thus the reason for working at Northwood where her predecessor had an emotional breakdown, thanks to working with Kinsella.
Alice's brother, Will, has a job and is receiving counseling for his drug addiction; her best friend, Lola, has a successful acting career; and she is closer to her mother who makes a startling revelation. Alice still harbors romantic feelings towards DCI Burns, but he appears to be smitten by a coworker.
Saving Ella Williams from death will be the highlight of her career, if she can keep herself from becoming the killer's next victim. Because someone is spying on Alice, trudging through the snow around her cottage, and breaking in through her windows. This cold, harsh winter may be her last. The Winter Foundlings is highly recommended reading for all fans of horror and mystery.