After a near-death experience, an adrenaline junkie sets his sights on Mount Everest—accompanied by the ghost, or the madness, that followed him out of a cave.
Simon drifts through life with little purpose or ambition besides seeking to boost traffic for the sensational website he runs with his buddy, Thierry. When Thierry convinces him to film a journey through the notorious Cwm Pot caves in Wales, in hopes that he will stumble onto the bodies of three spelunkers who died years before, Simon teams up with a shifty, unpredictable man named Ed whom he hires to be his guide. When rising waters trap them in the cave for hours, Simon barely makes it out alive, and he finds himself unable to recover any sort of equilibrium in the days following. Depressed and possibly hallucinating, Simon reluctantly agrees to Thierry’s next big idea: that he should climb Everest in order to film the bodies of those who have died on the mountain. While pushing his body and mind to the absolute limit, Simon must confront the fact that he may have brought a “hitchhiker” back from the caves: either a malevolent spirit or the first stirrings of complete insanity. Lotz knows how to develop suspense and horror, and despite her rather pedestrian writing, the supernatural elements keep one engaged and guessing. It's not remotely believable that Simon would actually be able to climb Everest, but it makes no difference: the plot takes over where character development and authenticity fall short. The caving descriptions are specific enough to make the reader feel claustrophobic.
Dark and unsettling, Lotz's (Day Four, 2015, etc.) latest is a quick and mindless read that taps into, and exploits, our deepest fears.