Mysterious Book Report No. 487

by John Dwaine McKenna

The Himalayan Mountains of central Asia are known as “the roof of the world,” for that is where all of the tallest mountains on Earth are located.  Higher than the Andes of South America or the Alps of Europe, the Himalayas are the mightiest of their kind, and, as such, they’re an irresistible challenge to a certain type of adventurer who wants to stand at “The pinnacles of the Earth” . . . atop the 8000 meter giants.  Breathless, (Anchor, $28.00, 368 pages, ISBN 978-0-593-31549-1), by Amy McCulloch, is her first novel.  It’s a gripping and twisty thriller that takes place on the 8th highest peak in the world, the Nepalese mountain named Manaslu.   There’s only fourteen such mountains on the planet, each with unique and spectacular challenges that take months, if not years, of physical, mental and spiritual preparation for climbers to overcome . . . in addition to the logistical burdens of equipment, travel, lodging, and the money it takes to pay for it all.  But that’s where we meet an inexperienced climber and young magazine writer named Cecily Wong.  She’s drained her savings and sold everything she owns in order to be there, because she’s been promised an exclusive interview with a famous, larger-than-life adventurer named Charles McVeigh.  He’s a world-class climber who’s attempting to summit all fourteen 8,000 meter mountains in one year.  He’s pledged to do these climbs “alpine style”—solo, without ropes or supplemental oxygen—a feat that’s never been tried, let alone done.  Now, he’s on the last one . . . Manaslu.  But, there’s a catch, isn’t there always.  In order to get the interview, Cecily has to climb the mountain at the same time.  She’s terrified.  But she’s ambitious too . . . and McVeigh’s interview would have life-changing effects on her career.  She has to go.  Once the small team prepares to work up the mountain flank however, a mysterious and unfortunate accident occurs when an experienced climber in their party falls to his death, casting a pall over all of them.  As the climbers enter what’s known as the ‘kill zone” above 26,000 feet, the mishaps start to multiply, and Cecily suspects there’s a murderer somewhere on the mountain.  Thereafter, the critical situations and danger never stop as the doomed party creeps ever closer to the summit.  With descriptions that will stop your heart and scare you half to death . . . almost numbing your face and fingers with frostbite . . . Ms. McCulloch will leave you in a state of shock as she skillfully reaches her shattering conclusion.  She’s an assured descriptor, a careful plotter and an exciting writer who demands our attention.  Don’t miss this one!!


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