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  • Writer's pictureThe Fiction Fox

Review: A Haunting in the Arctic - C.J. Cooke

Genre: Historical Fiction, mystery/thriller

Published: HarperCollins, October 2023 (UK) My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

“I mean, I literally don’t have the words” I say. (…) “It’s like, some things that happen to a person are so awful that they exist outside language. Am I making sense?”

I see her eyes have softened. “You’re making complete sense.”

CJ Cooke brings another chilling supernatural thriller with a ghostly twists, with her latest release A Haunting in the Arctic. With many elements that I loved in Cookes previous works (a dual-timeline narrative, split between present and past, elements of North-European folklore, an isolated and inhospitable location that the author excels at bringing to life with her words) present here too, I went in with high hopes and expectations. Although I didn’t feel like it lived up to the quality of The Lighthouse Witches and The Ghost Woods, I still enjoyed my time with it, and will recommend it for fans of gothic historical mystery searching for their next midwinter read.

Told in dual time-line, through the eyes of two young women over a century apart, our story follows the history of the Oreman; whaling-vessel on the arctic seas between Scotland and Iceland.

In 1901, Nicky finds herself an unwilling stowaway amongst the sea-hardened whaling-crew, a victim to their whims and that of the sea.

In 2023, the wreck of the Oreman has found its final resting place in a remote Icelandic fishing village, shrouded in mystery and local folklore. Urban explorer Dominique, fascinated by the mysteries surrounding what happened during its final voyage, is determined to find the wreck and unravel its history. She soon finds herself not alone on the ship. Some histories are too impactful to say buried forever.

As mentioned: Cooke excels at bringing atmospheric, isolated settings to life with her words, and the remote shipwreck of the Oreman is a perfect canvas for her to paint on. I felt the chills up my spine on multiple occasions, both from the descriptions of the cold, the terrors of claustrophobia and loneliness, and the all too real terrors of seafaring life in the early 20th century. I truly felt for the protagonists: both women in undeniable peril, but never being cast into the “damsel in distress”-role.

The mystery across time had me hooked until the end, but unfortunately the final reveal didn’t hold up to scrutiny. The ending hinges on a very overdone trope that I’m personally tired of seeing, and wasn’t foreshadowed properly enough to feel earned. It took away from the strength of the rest of the book enough for me to drop a star of my rating, and round it down in the Goodreads-system.

Based off the authors previous track-record and the amazing writing quality that was on display for the rest of the novel, I will still absolutely read anything the author comes up with next. I just hope the ending doesn’t follow the shipwreck-theme of this one.

You can find this book here on Goodreads. Note: A Haunting in the Arctic is out now in European territory, and is sceduled for release in the US in early 2024.


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