review by Maryom
When Adam Caird goes to the aid of a young woman fainting on the Tube, he's no idea of the emotional and physical journey this action will lead him to. The young woman is Henrietta Birdie Bowers, a graffiti artist named after Antarctic explorer and possible relative, Henry 'Birdie' Bowers, and from that moment Adam is entranced - not only by Birdie herself with whom he falls instantly in love but also with her obsession, inherited from her father, with Scott's expedition to the Pole in which Henry Bowers took part. She is already planning a trip to the Ice in the hope of locating Scott's tent and final resting place, and Adam finds himself irresistibly drawn along.
Dead Men is an impressive debut novel combining a modern day love and adventure story with flashbacks to Scott's expedition of 1912. The present day tale is told in first person as Adam - capturing this middle aged, staid and set in his ways, emotionally inarticulate computer nerd falling head over heels for a woman almost his complete opposite; many years younger than him, artistic and prone to extreme mood-swings - maybe opposites do attract!
The most stunning passages though come in descriptions of the Antarctic, whether in Adam's narrative or in the 'flashbacks'; the rough but homely huts that Scott and Shackleton used as bases; of endless whiteness alternating with blizzards that restrict visibility to an arms-length; all overlooked by the rumbling volcano of Mount Erebus like an ice-clad Mount Doom. There's a fine line between not explaining enough and cluttering a story with too much factual information but I thought that maybe there was an assumption that the reader knew quite a lot about Scott, Shackleton and their expeditions. Maybe some notes at the end - and a map - would be helpful.
I must just add that I was surprised by the ending - I'd thought the story was heading elsewhere, though I won't say more for fear of spoiling the plot.
Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Duckworth
Genre - adult fiction,