- Author: Matthew Iden
- Published: February 2017 by Thomas & Mercer
- Category: Thriller, Suspense, Crime
Each winter the crew at the Shackleton South Pole Research Facility faces nine months of isolation, round-the-clock darkness, and one of the most extreme climates on the planet. For thirty-something mechanical engineer Cass Jennings, Antarctica offers an opportunity to finally escape the guilt of her troubled past and to rebuild her life.
Cass Jennings’ career had ground to a halt after a tragic accident caused her to seriously doubt her own judgement. She applied and had been accepted as one of the Shackleton South Pole Research Facility’s over-winter staff. Cass was the station’s mechanic, plumber and carpenter among other things. Each member of staff had to be able to cover other jobs as well as their own.
For the majority of the year the facility is manned by a skeleton crew of staffers and scientists. This year is slightly different in that TransAnt are managing the station and so the staff are obliged to follow their protocols, although no-one but a select few know TransAnt have their own agenda. When one of Cass’ colleagues, Sheryl Larkin, is found dead in the snow it sparks a series of unexplainable and dangerous incidents which hit morale hard.
The business of getting Larkin’s body back to base, of recruiting Jennings to help, had been foolish. And waiting to tell the rest of the staff about Larkin and the circumstances in which they found her – that was just stupid. May be Hanratty had some kind of larger plan, but sitting on information that radioactive was precisely how rumors got started.
Not that Taylor had anything against rumors, per se. Scuttlebutt was fine, as long as you were the one controlling it, or at least out in front of it. Ignore it and gossip took on a life of its own, no longer yours to use. He’d learned that from a lifetime of pushing and pulling people in directions they didn’t want to go. His knack for manipulation had been honed doing six years of dirty work around the world for TransAnt and, after four months at Shackleton, he didn’t see any reason the same approach shouldn’t work at the South Pole.
Life in such a harsh environment as the South Pole is portrayed vividly – nine months of winter isn’t a pleasant prospect, but when the temperatures can drop to one hundred below zero it’s hell on earth. Most of those months are spent in total darkness cut off from any form of civilisation. No transport of any kind in or out, I can’t image what that must be like, it gives me the creeps just thinking about it.
The set up of the plot works really well, building the suspense with lots of twists as it progresses towards an explosive and shocking denouement. There’s a diverse mix of troubled and sometimes offbeat characters, most of whom feel the need to prove something, either for their own benefit or someone else’s. The utilitarian living quarters give the sense of the dismal and unappealing surroundings and confinement with the same people for an extended amount of time is a disaster waiting to happen, especially when those people are put under extreme pressure. The author handles the characterisation well, Cass is the most appealing followed closely by her friend, Biddie.
Descriptions, character interactions and dialogue are excellent, as is the writing, the atmosphere and extreme conditions are captured exceptionally well. I had no idea where the story was going and, for some, belief might need to be suspended slightly towards the end (although I can see how a possible situation could develop in such a volatile climate) It didn’t spoil the entertaining story for me anyway.
About Matthew Iden
In addition to his most recent thriller THE WINTER OVER (set in the harrowing landscape of a South Pole winter), Matthew Iden is the prolific author of the Marty Singer detective series—A Reason to Live, Blueblood, One Right Thing, The Spike, The Wicked Flee, and Once Was Lost—as well as several acclaimed stand-alone novels.
Iden’s eclectic resume includes jobs with the US Postal Service, international nonprofit groups, a short stint with the Forest Service in Sitka, Alaska, and time with the globe-spanning Semester at Sea program. Trips to Iceland, Patagonia, and Antarctica have given him a world of inspiration. Iden currently lives in Northern Virginia—close enough to the woods to keep his sanity, close enough to the Washington, DC, Capital Beltway to lose it.