by John Pitarresi
Susan Bickford writes about young women in trouble. They are young women tough and resilient enough to handle that trouble.
Marly Shaw was that young woman in Bickford’s first novel, “A Short Time To Die.” Sydney Lucerno is another, the lead character in Bickford’s newly published second effort, “Dread of Winter.”
Like Marly, Sydney is smart, tough, resourceful, and determined in dealing with the more than questionable characters in her life, and she works hard at surviving the pitfalls of 21st century existence, including the opioid crisis and the violence that sometimes comes with it.
Bickford spent a bit of her formative years in Central New York and is a graduate of the former Kirkland College in Clinton. She again uses that experience in building the locales in the story, and also makes a character of the region’s tough winter weather. Veteran Upstaters might find her description of the conditions a bit over the top, but considering she has spent most of her professional life in California and probably has lost much of the hard shell needed to deal with cold, snow, ice and howling wind, the hyperbole might be excused.
That is beside the point, though. Like “A Short Time to Die,” this suspense novel is a page-turner. Sydney and her new-found sister Maude are sympathetic characters – well, Sydney is; Maude gives you pause now and then – and you care what happens to them. And a lot of bad things potentially can happen, being as they are mixed up with and related to a nut-case family that includes a murderous member or two.
Some of these characters are really bad actors, but you believe in them. As we noted in reference to the low down jerks in “A Short Time to Die,” if you don’t believe such creatures exist, just check the news. They are more than real.
So, again, you turn the pages.
Bickford includes a nod to the Iroquois nation in the book, and explains in her afterword that the Haudenosaunee played a role in her early development. She also turns a couple of real life friends into important characters, but you’d really have to be in the know to realize who they are. You might get lost here and there with a plot twist or a confusion of characters – I did – but that is something of suspense novel tradition. It all works out in the end.
And, in the end, you care about Sydney, Maude, and the rest, and you keep turning the pages. That’s a good thing.