Breathless by Amy McCulloch

Today it’s over to Mandie who has a review of Breathless by Amy McCulloch. Thanks to publisher Michael Joseph for the advance copy for review. Here’s what the book is all about:

Source: Advance Reader Copy
Release Date: 17 February 2022
Publisher: Michael Joseph

About the Book

When struggling journalist Cecily Wong is invited to join an expedition to climb one of the world’s tallest mountains, it seems like the chance of a lifetime.

She doesn’t realise how deadly the climb will be.

As their small team starts to climb, things start to go wrong. There’s a theft. Then an accident. Then a mysterious note, pinned to her tent: there’s a murderer on the mountain.

The higher they get, the more dangerous the climb becomes, and the more they need to trust one another.

And that’s when Cecily finds the first body…

Mandie’s Thoughts

Cecily Wong is a freelance journalist who has been hand picked to join Charles McVeigh on his final climb for his Mission Fourteen Clean challenge. He has granted her an exclusive interview on the condition she summits with him and his team. This interview will make Cecily’s career after all Charles is a climbing legend. There is one snag though, Cecily is a complete novice when it comes to climbing, her only attempts with her ex-boyfriend ended in failure. This time failure is not an option, she has pinned absolutely everything on success. She knows it is going to be dangerous, she knows people have died trying to climb Manaslu in the past, what she wasn’t prepared for was the fact that its not just the mountain that could be the killer.

From the start you can sense Cecily’s apprehension about taking on this challenge, but she has a point to prove to herself and her ex-boyfriend and she is not going to give up easily. After bonding with the only other female on the team things start off well as they start to acclimatise to the changes in altitude. When a climber from another team dies in what seems to be an accident, Cecily’s mind goes into overdrive,and she starts to question if there was more to the fall than people are saying. With so many people telling her to concentrate on the climb, even she has to wonder if she is making more of it than she needs to. She is certainly going to need all her grit and determination to make it to the summit.The question is how many of the team will make it to the top.

The interactions between Cecily and her Sherpa really showed the trust put in the mountain guides who repeatedly put their own lives at risk to ensure the safety of the climbers and too often how they are the forgotten tragedies on these killer mountains. With so many different people on the team, each with varying competence, you are left wondering how they really all got chosen for this climb at all. I am not going to lie when I say the personalities of one or two of them had me not caring if they made it or not as their self-assuredness bordered on the obnoxious.

The tension in this book increases in line with the progress they make up the mountain, and when an event from Cecily’s past has consequences that no one could predict you have to wonder if she will be a victim of an “accident”. As the book progresses you get the feeling that there is definitely more to Charles McVeigh than the legend that he lives off and despite having at the back of my mind that I knew who the killer was, I still really enjoyed the book.

Amy McCulloch is an experienced climber who has climbedManaslu herself and this really shows throughout the book. Her descriptions of the mountain, the climbing experience and the extreme weather conditions are such that you can feel yourself there even when sitting in the comfort of your own warm house. This is not a fast-paced book, yet I found myself flying through it and if nothing else it has shown that my healthy fear of heights and mountains (even those not covered in snow) is not so daft after all.

About the Author

Amy McCulloch is an internationally bestselling biracial Chinese-British author, raised in Ottawa, Canada, now based in London, UK. She has written eight novels for children and young adults, and her work has been translated into more than ten different languages. Breathless is her adult fiction debut. Before becoming a full-time writer, she was an editorial director for a leading children’s publisher in London and was named one of The Bookseller’s Rising Stars. In addition to writing, she loves adventure, travel, and mountaineering. Amy knows the dangerous world of high-altitude mountaineering very well: in September 2019, she became the youngest Canadian woman to climb Mount Manaslu in Nepal–the world’s eighth-highest mountain at 8,163 meters (26,781 feet).

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