The 2,000-mile Murmansk run from Iceland through the Arctic Ocean was known, during World War II, as ""The Gateway to Hell."" Pearce, who was there, conveys the experience and the danger with icy exactitude--making this a compelling story. British sailors on the convoys knew of the ghastly loss rate: not only were the waters thick with U-boats, but German surface vessels could attack at will from occupied Norway--and the Luftwaffe had thrown its dive bombers and torpedo planes into the battle. The British cruisers Edinburgh and Trinidad were the most modern ships of their class in the Royal Navy. Even so, the Arctic weather at -30Â° would freeze their heavy guns, block torpedo ports, and lay a thick case of ice over a whole ship. Fetid air within turned the walls green with mildew, and infectious bugs were quickly epidemic. The sea itself was a savage desolation of ice masses and stray bergs; all too often the convoy would steam blindly through fog and blizzard at zero visibility. Or, 24 hours of pure blue cloudless daylight would make the ships sitting ducks. On April 30, 1942 the Edinburgh took a German torpedo. Limited to two knots an hour, the cruiser spent the next three days at battle with the German fleet. On board was ten tons of gold bullion ($90 million) en route from the USSR to the US in payment for its war debt. In the battle, the Germans lost a cruiser and took heavy damages on a destroyer. Then men rescued from the Edinburgh were hospitalized under subhuman conditions in Russia. When the cruiser Trinidad took many aboard for the return home, it too was torpedoed while resisting waves of attacking U-boats, destroyers, and bombers. Transferred to other convoy ships, Edinburgh survivors found themselves tragically adrift in British minefields, with seven ships blown up by ""friendly"" mines. . . . Nothing about the gold recovery in 1981, but a full measure of heroism and adversity.