Can an intrepid mother and her plucky deaf daughter survive a perilous ride across a midnight polar landscape to find the missing-presumed-dead third member of their family?
Threats accumulate more thickly than snowflakes in the arctic blizzard through which guilty yet resourceful mother Yasmin Alfredson must drive, in this third novel from British suspense author Lupton (Afterwards, 2012, etc.). The strongly visual story hits the ground running as Yasmin and her 10-year-old daughter, Ruby, having just arrived on a flight from England to Fairbanks, Alaska, are told that a fire has killed everyone at Anaktue, the tiny village where Yasmin’s husband/Ruby’s father, Matt, was based while researching a wildlife documentary. Although the police have found Matt’s wedding ring at the site, Yasmin refuses to accept his death and, since the authorities have stopped looking, resolves to find him herself. What follows is a woman-and-daughter-in-peril scenario verging at times on the superhuman as Yasmin ends up driving a vast truck across Alaska, through terrifying terrain and weather conditions, pursued—not unlike in the 1971 Steven Spielberg movie Duel—by faceless foes. While this journey is paced like a bullet, Lupton layers on multiple additional dangers: creepy eco-warriors; avalanches; scary anonymous emails of pictures of dead animals; scruple-free energy companies; wolves; and more. The narrative point of view is split between Yasmin, repenting of her shortcomings toward both Matt and Ruby, and the spunky child, assisted by her Voice Magic laptop. However, a late shift in focus saps some of the story’s powerful intimacy, substituting skimpier narration and worthier themes. Lupton is at her best when describing the dark, wintry wilderness and pitting her two female protagonists against all comers.
Shrewdly commercial and seamed with some memorable descriptions of the polar wilds, Lupton’s latest, though unsteady at times, delivers an engrossing wallop of readable escapism.