Cold On The Mountain by Daniel Powell

Cold on the Mountain was a fun and freaky read! The premise is one that I think many readers will find immediately appealing: a shortcut through the Sierra Nevada Mountains on the border between Nevada and California is actually a portal to a very dark town called Adrienne. Why the darkness? This town is where serial killers and other famous murderers go when they die and where they wait for their lottery number to be called in order to be re-born and provide darkness to the world in order to balance the light.

Many poor, unfortunate travelers are accidentally caught in the portal during the periods it opens to release dark energy and to restore” normals” who had previously gone missing and were caught in the town’s web during portal openings. These normals have been kept in indentured servitude to the dark forces. They are there to provide labor and the occasional necessary sacrifice to the denizens of Adrienne.

This story centers on a family of four: Phil, his wife Wendy and their two daughters Cammie and Carrie. As they are caught in the portal, they must face the dangers inherent in living with people like John Wayne Gacy who runs the local hotel and Joseph Goebbels, the town’s current mayor.

Along the way they meet Albert De Salvo a.k.a. the Boston Strangler who happens to be the landlord of another normal, Denny Wren, a San Francisco 49er also caught in the portal and who has been helping others acclimate during his two decade stay in Adrienne. An interesting cast of characters populating Adrienne provide a portrait of the town and there is some wonderful black and gallows humor.

The people that have gone missing have not disappeared without notice however. There are many family members on the outside of the portal seeking resolution to their losses and hopefully recovery of the missing. This group is led by Bo, Phil’s brother and Bo’s wife Kelli. They are joined by Miriam, who escaped from the portal and who has come to understand how it works and has developed a technique to access it, and the sheriff,  a skeptic of Miriam’s but willing to try anything to solve the large number of missing persons cases in what essentially amounts to the mirror town located outside of the portal, Bishop.

All manner of events transpire to those on both sides of the portal. The grand finale takes place during the yearly opening of the portal where the lottery is drawn for both dark energies to be reborn and normals to re-enter Bishop. This is a thoroughly entertaining story. I was loath to put it down. I almost managed to read it in one sitting. I look forward to more stories by this author. A short book, but worthy of four stars!

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