I love a good ghost story: something gripping that takes you away from the real world, with all its troubles. But most leave me feeling a little disappointed; I can usually see the ending a mile off and most fail to ‘grip’.
Dark Matter by Michelle Paver is something different. Set in 1937, it tells the tale of Jack who is desperate for an adventure, a change to his poor and lonely life in dismal London…
He jumps at the chance to be the wireless operator on an Arctic expedition. With four other men and eight huskies, they set off from Norway to reach Gruhuken, a remote, uninhabited bay where they will camp for the next year.
But the expedition does not go to plan and, one by one, his companions are forced to leave and Jack has to make the choice too of whether to stay or go, as when the brief Arctic summer turns to Winter and the sea freezes, he will be marooned at the bay in months of polar darkness.
And Gruhuken is not uninhabited. Jack is not alone. Something walks out there in the dark….
This wonderful story is a departure for Michelle, who normally writes for children. The quality is reminiscent of MR James; she really captures the beauty in the arctic wilderness, the mental and physical isolation, the dread as the arctic winter aproaches and with it his last chance for escape, and his turmoil over whether to stay or go as the success of the expedition rests finally on his shoulders.
A real page-turner, which keeps you gripped until the very last word.