Published: Published November 2020 by Melia Publishing Services Ltd
Category: Historical Fiction, Courtroom Drama, Book Review
A dozen women join a secret 1850s Arctic expedition—and a sensational murder trial unfolds when some of them don’t come back.
Eccentric Lady Jane Franklin makes an outlandish offer to adventurer Virginia Reeve: take a dozen women, trek into the Arctic, and find her husband’s lost expedition. Four parties have failed to find him, and Lady Franklin wants a radical new approach: put the women in charge.
Based around two historical figures, Greer Macallister has woven a tale with its roots in the true story of Lady Jane Franklin’s determined attempts to find her husband’s lost Arctic expedition.
Virginia Reed, at only thirteen, was one of the few survivors of her family’s ill-fated journey across country to California and thereafter became a trail guide leading wagon trains through the mountains that saw her family, and many more, perish.
The story is told in alternating timelines, following the Arctic expedition in 1853 and the murder trial in Boston, opening in Massachusetts Superior Court in 1854 where Virginia Reeve is on trial for the murder of one of the women in her group.
In the front row sit the survivors.
Five women, broken and brave, who came to this courtroom against all odds.
Lady Franklin is desperate to find out what happened to her British Naval explorer husband. All four previous attempts had failed. She believes women could be much more capable than men and society are led to believe, given the chance, and puts forward a proposal for Virginia to lead an expedition to the Arctic and hopefully be the one to to succeed and bring news of the Franklin expedition.
Virginia takes up the challenge, regardless of it being totally different to leading travellers across the mountains to Oregon. She brings the team of eleven women, mostly chosen by Lady Franklin although Virginia was able to add some of her own choices, together. They are a diverse group but each of the women have individual skills and strengths which, in theory, should be beneficial for the success of the expedition, a strenuous trip testing the women to their limits, both mentally and physically. There were also shortcomings to add to the mix.
The Arctic Fury has quite a unique premise and I enjoyed both timelines. The expedition sections featured chapters from individual women, giving an insight into their characters and thoughts, and were fairly intense. The group had a limited amount of time before winter well and truly set in and they knew their chances of survival in that scenario would be next to none. They only had a small window of opportunity for preparation and training for the ordeal ahead, which didn’t bode well and added to the tension, both between the women and with regards to the journey.
“Call your first witness,” says Judge Miller, and despite herself, Virginia feels her curiosity rise. Who will it be? Who will be the first to sell her out, to make her a villain? To name her a murderer?