Thomas & Mercer

Dog bites man is not news. But, man bites dog? Now you’ve got my attention.

There’s nothing new under the sun, or in between the covers of a book. What grabs a readers attention is not the lack of tropes, but what new spin an author puts on those tropes. This is an idea author Matthew Iden takes full advantage of in his tension filled novel THE WINTER OVER. The trope that Iden is working with here is the standard locked room mystery. But when your “locked room” is in fact a research facility located at the bottom of the world, completely shrouded in darkness for months on end and totally cut off from the rest of the world? The tension and claustrophobia increase faster than the temperature drops during the extended winter season known as the WINTER OVER. You can feel it, can’t you? Just by reading that piece of summery, the panic starts to grow in the pit of your stomach. Iden knows this is the perfect place to set a crime. Or maybe even a conspiracy. The research facility is the crew’s only sanctuary against an entire continent that is trying to kill them.

Cass Jennings is one of a small crew of scientists and support staff manning the Shackleton South Pole Research Facility.  Operation of the Shackleton Facility has been taken over by TransAnt, a giant corporation that is continuing the long tradition of South Pole scientific research, but now they have one hundred percent patent exclusivity. If you’re going to find ways to better the state of mankind, you might as well make a profit doing so. The summer research season is quickly coming to an end, the last flight is literally about to take off for warmer climates. After that last flight, the base will be shrouded in darkness. The temperature will hover around sixty degrees below zero. And it will remain so for a full nine months. As the base is getting ready for the approaching winter over, one of their colleagues is discovered dead on the ice outside the base. No signs of violence are found- it’s ruled a case of accidental exposure. Cass is recruited to help bring the body in from the cold. This unfortunate situation casts a pall on the upcoming stress of the pending winter over. But Cass is tough, and knows she has work to do before the base is locked down.

As time goes on, things go from unfortunate, to strange, to odd, to full-on panic. With little else to do outside of her assigned tasks, Cass starts to ask questions about the death on the ice. Was an autopsy done? Was a report filed? Did anyone else even look at the body? None of the answers are satisfactory. As she plunges in to the darkness of the winter over… that’s when the power failures start. And the issues with the climate control. Are these separate incidents connected? Is there something more sinister at work at the Shackleton Facility? Cass needs to find the answers soon, because as tensions rise, it’s only getting colder outside. And there is nowhere else to go.

Matthew Iden has constructed a slow-burn potboiler set in the most intimidating setting on the planet. His narration is strong, and he deftly gives the reader the necessary background science without slowing the plot of the story. THE WINTER OVER was a wonderful introduction to Iden’s work, and I’ll be waiting to see what the author comes out with next.


Dan Malmon