Cover Image: Winter Witness

Winter Witness

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Member Reviews

This debut mystery left me a warm feeling and strongly reminded me of Louise Penny’s Three Pines series.

The protagonists were engaging, and the plot kept me enthralled.

There were a lot of characters to meet, but they were easily distinguishable because of the descriptions and backstory given to each by the author. I had many favorites among these. Eugene, the proprietor of Stella’s cafe (named for his late wife), Lester, the elderly lawyer who had a pet skunk, Olivia Last, Bianca’s friend, and cancer survivor, to name but a few.

The setting was idyllic and made you want to visit Batvia-on-Hudson for yourself. I can just imagine going into Stella’s and having a coffee and danish.

I’d be hard pressed to find anything I didn’t like about this novel, but if I did, I’d have to say that I found the cover didn’t do the book justice as it didn’t appeal to me personally.

This is a series that I intend to pursue and already look forward to the author’s second novel featuring these two personable protagonists.

This story was a charming amalgam of serious crime novel and a cozy. A character-rich, well-executed mystery, and a promising beginning for a new series. Recommended!
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4.5 🌟 Thanks to the publisher for the e-arc. 

This was such an atmosphere, cozy mystery! Books set around small towns are my jam, and Winter Witness was no different. The thrill and suspense element was perfectly executed throughout the story. I was hooked from the very beginning. The twists and turns were so cleverly plotted too!

Highly recommend to mystery lovers + readers who are trying to get out of a slump!
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When I started reading this book, I was a little spaced out regarding the time and place in which this story was placed. It takes a slow meandering route through the town, its various inhabitants on its way to the actual mystery. I could feel the weight of the winter atmosphere, the small nitpicking that everyone engages in. 
Although the book begins with discovering a murdered nun, the progression of the narrative focuses on how everyone deals with it while showing us the parallel police investigation, almost as an aside. The characters grew on me, and I was invested in the narrative.
As our leading lady, we have a recently widowed lady trying to live without her husband while juggling financial difficulties. She is only now venturing into the small-town community and gaining a place for herself. Since she is the only one who feels the second death in town is connected to the first and holds pieces of the entire puzzle, she sets out to figure things out. There are two reasons I rated the book the way I did. The first is because I found the pacing a tad too slow (but remained persistently atmospheric) and arrived at the conclusion just before the final reveal and did not really 'like' it. I did not feel like my emotions were invested in the right place for the ending. Also, I intend to pick up the next when available, and I want to keep this as a base rating because I have higher hopes for the next.
 I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers, but the review is entirely based on my own reading experience.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Level Best Books for kindly providing me with a digital copy of this book for review.
The premise of this book is what really grabbed me- a nun is murdered in a sleepy mountain village. I instantly wanted to know why, what secrets did she have, who could possibly want to murder a nun?  The cover of this book also dragged me in- I’ve read this in winter time and the cold, desolate wintery image on the cover really felt very appropriate timing. I think this feeling of cold was successfully carried on through in the writing and really helped build up a suspenseful atmosphere.
I think if you are a fan of Louise Penny, then it may be worth giving this new series a try. I think the author has managed to fit into that slight gap that is mysteries that are just that bit more grittier than cozy mysteries, but don’t have the elements to make them thrillers either. I’m more than happy to reside in that gap with my reading!
The author has included a good amount of back stories for our main characters which helps to flesh them out and make them more relatable. It also helps set up the ongoing story lines for future books in the series.
I did enjoy this mystery and would recommend it as a promising start to a new series.
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it was a rather well executed debut for this author and she managed to weave an interesting tale of suspense and thrill. the small town setting was ideal for the events to play out like they did and the atmosphere that tina creates is superb. i loved the characterisation of the story and all characters were well rounded and interesting.
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Gosh this book - i loved it. Atmospheric, gave me vibes of Louise Penny and the town of Three Pines. Bianca and her husband retreat to the small town of Balvaria on the Hudson. As newcomers to the small town, they are outsiders. When her husband unexpectedly dies, Bianca works hard to ingratiate herself as part of the community. This story tracks two unexpected deaths and Bianca's help to try to solve how two local women die. 

Literary mystery!
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I ended up really enjoying this book. The descriptions of its setting - a close-knit town that somehow feels secure and homely despite murders going on - are lovely to read. And it's very easy to get interested in the person who develops as the main character in the book, Bianca.

The story begins with the murder of a nun, whose body is discovered by a lake one morning. After a further death, things become more complicated.

But I found it interesting that the actual plot of the book - the murder and the question of who committed it - was not the main thing that made me keep wanting to read. Instead it was the image of this cosy town that the writer has conjured up and the emotional struggles of Bianca to fit in and deal with her husband's death.

I felt the writing of the book could be better. At times it is a little stilted with passages that don't flow as well as they could do. But ultimately for me this didn't get in the way of what ended up being a really nice book to read.
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The setting sounded promising, unfortunately this didn't help me in connecting with the characters or the story.
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This is a cozy murder mystery set in a small town with an amateur detective. I liked the main character Bianca and her character development. The setting is very well written as well. I just felt that the pace of the mystery was a bit slow for me but overall an enjoyable read.
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After a year of dark, gritty noirish crime novels debut author, Tina deBellegarde, has provided the perfect antidote for a time of year when the year’s worries and stress should be left behind – if only for a week or two.

Winter Witness is the first in the author’s new Batavia-on-Hudson series set in a sleepy, small town in the Catskill Mountains in the Hudson Valley, Canada. Despite two murders at the centre of the story, this is a thorough study in small–town living with all it’s eccentricities and nuances. We have a large cast of characters, most of whom are carrying their own secrets while trying to live a normal life when the unspeakable happens and the anchor of the community, Sister Elaine Fisher, is murdered. She is found on the shore of the nearby frozen Groenmeer lake by Mr Ishikawa, an outsider who mainly keeps to himself and is only seen when he walks his cinnamon coloured dog, a Shiba Inu. Since murders don’t ever occur in this town, suspicion immediately falls on Mr Ishikawa.

Full review:
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I’m not sure if I am able to classify this book as there are cozy mystery, women’s fiction and psychological thriller elements
I can say I liked it because it’s the excellent start of a new mystery series and I think it’s an excellent book, well written, poignant and engrossing.
It’s atmospheric and I cannot help visualising what is happening in white and grey. The winter atmosphere, the small town full of secrets and the damaged characters who are fighting to overcome their problem or are locked in their grief.
It’s not a fast paced/action packed book but the author did a great job in world building and character development. I love her style of writing and she’s an excellent wordsmith using a style that is more literary than mystery.
There’s hope at the end of the travel but you will meet the characters and share their grief.
Bianca, Mike are my favorite characters and I hope to meet them again as they are interesting and fleshed out.
The mystery is solid, full of twists and turns, and it kept me guessing.
It’s not a fast paced/action packed book, you get to meet the characters and follow Bianca in her efforts to solve the mystery and become a member of the community. It’s a bit slow for about ¾ but the last part was excellent and gripping.
I want to know what will happen in the next instalments, this one is recommended.
Many thanks for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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In Winter Witness, book one of the Batavia-On-Hudson Mystery Series, author Tina deBellegarde transports the reader to the tranquil Catskill Mountains lakeside village of Batavia-On-Hudson, New York, for an intriguing mystery story that will keep the reader guessing and turning the pages.

The past year has been difficult for Bianca St. Denis as she grieves her husband's death, while also trying to transition from an outsider and gain the acceptance of the villagers, even though she has lived in the village for the past 3 years.

When local beloved nun Sister Elaine Fisher is found murdered on the shore of the frozen lake, and her childhood friend and local village historian Agatha Miller dies two days later, Bianca thinks that there is a connection between both deaths, and decides to be an amateur sleuth and delve into investigating the deaths on her own. In a small village where the villagers seem to know everything about each other, Bianca remembers what Agatha told her while visiting her: the village is full of secrets hidden from the public eye. One never really knows what burdens each carries, what battles they are fighting, and that things are not always as they appear. With that in mind, Bianca decides to bear witness to the comings and goings of the villagers, noting down observations, but the more she learns about the villagers, the more she discovers that the more danger, potential motives, and suspects are added to the list, while her meddling also adds to the burden of Sheriff Mike Riley's investigation. Will Sheriff Riley listen to Bianca's information and find the killer before the killer strikes again? 

In her debut novel, Author Tina deBellegarde weaves a fast-paced and suspenseful tale that follows Bianca's amateur sleuth investigation to uncover the truth behind the deaths of longtime friends Sister Elaine Fisher and Agatha Miller.

I loved reading this action-packed story. Bianca's observations of the villagers and her personal investigation into the deaths kept me intrigued as she slowly put the pieces of the mystery puzzle together and uncovered the truth. The reader will be easily drawn into this richly descriptive plot that will keep them guessing as long hidden secrets, family dramas, a growing list of possible suspects, motives, and clues are uncovered. And if that's not enough, Bianca also has to deal with personal issues of grieving her husband's death, loneliness, and desperately wanting to gain the acceptance of the villagers.  

I would be remiss if I didn't mention how much I loved reading snippets of the quirky villagers' individual secrets, and the richly vivid description of the tranquil lakeside village in the Catskills Mountains, that makes me want to take a roadtrip to the picturesque Hudson Valley region.

I look forward to reading the next book in the Batavia-On-Hudson Mystery Series.

Winter Witness has enough drama, tension, action, dark secrets, intrigue, and unexpected twists and turns that will take the reader on one heck of a thrilling roller coaster ride.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest book review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours.
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An appealing cozy mystery set in upstate New York, this story centers around Bianca, a recently widowed emigrant from the city. She is still dealing with her husband Richard’s death when elderly resident Agatha, with whom she has recently become friends, dies suddenly. Agatha’s death comes only a few days after that of Sister Elaine, a nun in her nineties from the local convent.  The sister had been attacked and killed ostensibly for her valuable family ring while walking the convent spaniel around the lake.  The connections between Agatha, Elaine, and other townspeople become clearer as Bianca reads the journals that Agatha left behind for her, and Bianca can’t help but wonder if the two recent deaths are connected with the controversy over a large corporation trying to grab land locally in order to build a casino.
The characters, especially Bianca, are sympathetic and sensitively depicted, and the novel’s treatment of the tension between development and employment in rural areas on the one hand and the preservation of natural beauty and the character of local communities on the other is compelling and thoughtful. The story also illustrates how such communities can be close and supportive, yet exclusive and suspicious of newcomers. The rural New York setting of the story is one the writer obviously knows well and cares about. In addition, Bianca’s loneliness and her search for new friendships and purpose after her loss are touching, making this novel more than a cookie-cutter cozy. 
If a reader is looking for heart-thumping suspense or an intricate mystery, this novel likely won’t appeal, but if a sweet story with a riddle to be solved and some emotional depth is what draws you, give this one a shot.
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I enjoyed the village, the mystery and all the varied personalities in this fun and twisty mystery. I love when the town is one of the characters, and it definitely was here. I could picture the described places like the lake and the diner, and the people inhabiting it each had a unique voice and spirit; I wasn't getting characters confused. I would definitely read another book in this series, it would be fun to revisit these characters. 
Only minor complaints here: some of the chapters felt a little detail-heavy when it wasn't quite necessary. Sometimes that was useful for setting the scene but it got to be a little excessive toward the end and the book got to be a bit lengthy.
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I wish I lived in Batavia-on-Hudson with the characters that Tina deBellegarde brings to life so ably in Winter Witness. I want to sip coffee in Stella’s Café with recently-widowed Bianca St. Denis, the sympathetic newcomer trying to fit into this small Catskill Mountain town while facing financial problems. I want to know more about Sheriff Mike’s troubled marriage and the PTSD that drove him from the city to this village. And, of course, I want to know how Bianca and Sheriff Mike will track down Sister Elaine’s murderer. (That’s not a spoiler. The book opens with Sheriff Mike examining the body and murder scene.) DeBellegarde has created an entire universe of characters in this well-written mystery. They remind us that everyone bears the scars of some heartbreak that they – we – hide from casual friends and neighbors. Bianca challenges us to keep that in mind, to looks deeper and avoid judging each other based on the masks we present to the world. I can’t wait to revisit Batavia-on-Hudson when the next book in this series comes out.
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What a wonderful mystery! Bianca, a young widow alone near a small village in the old farmhouse she and her husband had been renovating before his untimely death. A murdered nun loved by the community. A cantankerous old woman whose family used to be the largest employer in the area. A sheriff who left New York City after the killing of his partner for something quieter. The author paints a picture of the community and it’s residents in a way you feel you know them, but they all have secrets and no one always sees the suffering of others. I hope there is a sequel to this book, the ending tied up the questions quite well but I so enjoyed the characters and the sense of community in this beautiful town. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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This book was incredible! Everything i love in a mystery-thriller. An incredible protagonist, an enticing setting, and a agatha christie like whodunit plot. As an archivist myself, and if there are more books in the series, i would love to see what Bianca does with Agatha’s notes. I love the connections between each of the characters, especially between agatha and bianca. The ending was really beautiful and poetic and i loved the part about shade, and without it we wouldn’t have the light. Really beautiful ending to a lovely book!
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