- Book: The Dark
- Location: Antarctica
- Author: Emma Haughton
How about a locked room mystery set in a research station in Antarctica? The sense of setting, cloying, dark and claustrophobic, is excellent, whilst beyond the living and working quarters the ice-clad landscape is always an all pervasive and threatening phenomenon. The station is miles from anywhere and in the Winter months it never gets light. Planes dropping in a new crew have to keep the engines turning, for fear of freezing. You have to be a certain kind of person to handle this inclement and harsh environment.
Kate is one such person. She is being flown in as a replacement medic. Her predecessor Jean-Luc died in an accident, he fell down a crevasse due to a faulty carabiner. She is there to treat all ailments and monitor the staff for side effects of living in this tricky environment: no Vitamin D as there is no sunlight, very little fresh food and body clocks that have no sense of day or night. Imagine a catastrophe, a heart attack or a condition that requires hospital treatment – she is there to deal with everything, within her limited resources. Remember, a plane can’t fly in as the weather makes a landing too dangerous at the height of Winter and so, literally, they are cut off from civilisation.
The new medic has a problem in that she is addicted to prescription medication. This makes her quite unreliable and she knows she has a problem, but it sits deep. She has a dawning sense that Jean-Luc’s death wasn’t perhaps a tragic accident and she suspects a murderer lurks in their midst.
She has to negotiate entrenched dynamics as well as fight her own demons and obstacles, and red herrings dog her path. There is one point where one of the characters has undergone some surgery and is fit enough within moments to be crawling about on the ice, which rather stretched credibility 🙄.
Curiously this thriller is set going into the North hemisphere Summer 2021 and I couldn’t find any mention of Covid. I wondered whether the author consciously chose not to mention it, in order to add to the sense of isolation on the station. And yet it felt a little odd for it not to at least have a mention, as it has been on the rampage since early 2020, before the novel was in production?
The cold, harsh setting trumps the motley crew of characters, who are crammed together, fighting for survival.