The Winter Over by Matthew Iden
Publication Date: February 1st 2017
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Each winter the crew at the Shackleton South Pole Research Facility faces nine months of isolation, round-the-clock darkness, and one of the most extreme climates on the planet. For thirty-something mechanical engineer Cass Jennings, Antarctica offers an opportunity to finally escape the guilt of her troubled past and to rebuild her life.
But the death of a colleague triggers a series of mysterious incidents that push Cass and the rest of the forty-four-person crew to the limits of their sanity and endurance. Confined and cut off from the outside world, will they work together or turn against one another? As the tension escalates, Cass must find the strength to survive not only a punishing landscape but also an unrelenting menace determined to destroy the station—and everyone in it.
The Winter Over was a Kindle First pick for January. I was in the mood for some creepy suspense, and I figured a novel set in Antarctica was just what the doctor ordered. Though the novel showed flashes of brilliance, in the end I felt like it tried too hard to be too many things: Thriller, Mystery and Horror. Up until about the 80% mark I was really enjoying it, but then it went off the rails.
Cass is doing her first winter-over at the Shackleton Research Facility in the South Pole. During the summer months the station is filled with scientists and staff, but during the long winter months a skeleton crew of 40-ish hunker down and keep the station going. 9 months is a long time to be cutoff from everyone and everything you know, but Cass needs some distance from her life after a major tragedy.
When a colleague is found dead just before the station shuts down for the winter, the crew is shaken. But then a series of mysterious events happen that make Cass question herself and her remaining fellow colleagues.
Iden’s writing is very engaging. It was easy to fall into the barren, stark world of the Antarctic research station. This is where the novel excels. The creepy, dark station was fascinating. Cass, the protagonist, was interesting; complex and a bit maudlin at times. She had a down-to-earth approach to puzzling things out that made even the most ridiculous plots and schemes seem easily overcome. I was rooting for her from the beginning. I wish some of the other characters had been fleshed out more. Cass’s main friend, Biddie, and a couple of the scientists were touched on. I’d have liked to have more from them.
The suspense didn’t work as well. I pegged the villain early on, as well as the circumstances behind all the mysterious incidents that kept cropping up. The author did a fair amount of foreshadowing. The story truly lost me around the 75%-80% mark. Up until that point I was interested in seeing where things were headed, but it really went off the rails and too many over-the-top things happened in too short a time. It ended abruptly. The conflict was resolved, but I wish there had been a bit of follow-up. The way things were left at the station made me highly curious about its future.
Despite my issues with the last 1/4 of the book, I would definitely try the author again.