Dead Men – Richard Pierce

Dead Men

  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd (15 Mar 2012)
  • Language English
  • My Rating = 4.5 stars
  • As young children, in a tiny rural primary school, we used to listen rapt to the Master as he told us stories of great adventurers both mythical and real.  Forty years on, I still vividly recall the three “heros” who impressed me the most – Abraham Lincoln, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Captain Scott.  The story of Scott’s ill-fated journey to the South Pole, only to be thwarted by Amundsen, has always fascinated me so I was delighted to get the opportunity to read a new novel about Scott especially in this, the centenary  year of his and his colleagues’ death.

    It’s a fairly compact novel, just short of 300 pages but it gives just enough detail to hook the reader from the opening pages where Scott, Wilson and Bowers are discovered in their  tent, having starved to death.   There is a dual time-frame narrative as past events told in the third person involving Scott, Amundsen, his wife amongst others are balanced with a contemporary storyline in the present tense involving a girl obsessed with finding the current location of the explorers’ bodies and some clue as to how they perished only 11 miles away from a base which could have provided them with the food and shelter they needed to survive.  The girl is Birdie Bowers, whose parents named her after one of their heros who was Scott’s companion in both life and death.   She enlists the help of Adam Caird, a would-be suitor, to assist her in her quest to lay some ghosts to rest – her single-mindedness is on a par with that of Scott and his team but there’s a recklessness there too which cranks up the tension and drama.

    My favourite parts of the novel are those set in the Antarctic, both past and present, as the writer really captures the beautiful desolation of the landscape – an environment which could turn on you and kill you without warning.  There’s an eerie, haunting atmosphere, the feeling of being watched by the ghosts of the past, be they malevolent or benign but this never spills over into farce or fantasy. 

    Highly recommended if you are already intrigued by Antarctic adventure and have a respect for nature.   Those who enjoyed Dark Matter by Michelle Paver will equally enjoy the polar parts here.

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    1. Your teacher sounds very cool :)
      This sounds like a good book, like you I have always found this adventure story fascinating. Another one for the wishlist!

    2. admin says:

      Sam, it was a really small school (50 pupils in total) and we were taught by a husband and wife. Sadly the Master is now dead but I’m still in touch with his wife. It’s strange how certain tales can capture your imagination and stay with you all your life.

    3. Ellie says:

      Oh I’ll be adding this to my wishlist.

    4. Teresa says:

      Ellie, I have a feeling your wishlist might be even longer than mine!

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