Review: Sarah Lotz – The White Road

I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading about Everest and K2 after listening to the audio of Michael Conefrey’s excellent Ghosts of K2. I’m most definitely an armchair mountaineer despite living the Peak District. My enjoyment of these hills are confined to marches up my local ‘low’ to visit the henges when I want break from my writing. However, I love reading about people in extreme situations and how they behave in almost intolerable conditions. Sarah Lotz’s new book, The White Road, takes this premise and has produced a fascinating thriller.

Simon Newman is an adrenaline junkie who works for website Journey to the Darkside which caters for ghoulish viewers. On the hunt for the bodies of three cavers who perished underground, he persuades Ed to take him to a cave in Wales. When the trip ends in tragedy, a video of his near-death experience goes viral. To capitalise on its success, Simon’s partner persuades him to sign up to a trip to Everest. There he meets a group of people whose reasons for being on the mountain range from the adventurous to the tragic.

It’s always great to read something a bit different and Sarah Lotz has produced a thriller where the tension comes as much from the landscape as the plot. She cleverly contrasts the claustrophobia of a subterranean disaster alongside exposure to the elements on Everest. There’s also a nice contrast between the single foe Simon faces in the caves and the cast of characters he meets on the mountains.

Despite Simon being the protagonist and narrator, the subsidiary characters are given plenty of depth which makes this for a thoughtful as well as thrilling read. One of my favourite books this year.

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