AMY MCCULLOCH *****
When struggling journalist Cecily Wong is invited to join an expedition to climb one of the world's tallest mountains, it seems like the chance of a lifetime.
She doesn't realise how deadly the climb will be.
As their small team starts to climb, things start to go wrong. There's a theft. Then an accident. Then a mysterious note, pinned to her tent: there's a murderer on the mountain.
The higher they get, the more dangerous the climb becomes, and the more they need to trust one another.
And that's when Cecily finds the first body . . .
MY REVIEW *****
Although I primarily enjoy reading fiction, I do love to learn something new when reading a book. Breathless is the perfect example of this - the story is centred on a mountain climbing expedition to the summit of Mount Manaslu – one of the world’s tallest mountains. Having never experienced a mountain climbing adventure before, I was in very safe hands with Amy McCulloch’s - who actually holds the title of the youngest Canadian woman to scale that very mountain! There was a lot of new phrases, terms and concepts to learn, but Amy writes them in an easy to understand way without it feeling patronising and crucially, without ruining the pace of the writing.
Breathless is very well titled – the high-stakes rush of the plot, coupled with the atmospheric setting and sinister characters left me feeling breathless with every page! There are a lot of mini-twists throughout and you are constantly kept guessing at every turn. There are a few well-written red herrings in there as well to catch you on the back-foot. As well as the main storyline of murder on the mountain, there is also the peril of the setting which holds your attention as well as the quest to the summit. The idea of the ice wall climb (and what Cecily discovers on her descent) really stuck with me as well.
Main character Cecily is a great choice to allow exposition to occur naturally. She is a journalist, with her own flaws and fears as well as an inexperience with the larger mountains which allows certain questions to be asked and answered without it feeling unnatural. There are quite a few characters that we meet within her team and other mountaineers that she meets on the way, but they all felt very distinct which stopped it from becoming confusing. I particularly liked the strength with which the female characters were portrayed, such as influencer Elise or ex-beauty Queen Irina. The sherpas and culture and religion surrounding the mountain were also really respectfully depicted.
Overall, Breathless will leave you just that – a well-researched high-stakes thriller with an atmospheric setting and sinister characters. Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin – Michael Joseph for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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