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Review: Dead Mountain: the untold story of the Dyatlov Pass - Donnie Eichar

Updated: Nov 30, 2018

Genre: Non fiction, investigative journalism Published: Chronical Books, October 2013 My rating: 4/5 stars

In February of 1959, a group of young but experienced hikers embarked on a track through the Ural mountains in Russia, never to return. Over the months that follow, their bodies are located one by one, painting a confusing and horrifying picture of the events that affected the group. A frenzied escape from the safety of their camp wearing little more than underwear, curious evidence like clothes emitting radiation and injuries that seem to defy explanation… All of this has made this case the subject of much speculation over the years. Theories range from accidents to foul play, from Soviet soldiers to Russian Yeti’s, and from secret weapons testing to extraterrestrials. In Dead Mountain; the untold true story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident , investigative journalist Donnie Eichar sets out to explore all theories and find the truth among the speculation.

Investigative true crime can be a tricky genre; these are real events, with real people, who often still have real (living) relatives. To me, treating the case and people at hand with the due respect is always one of the first things I look for in books like this. I’m happy to say that Donnie Eichar handles this very well.

People come before sensationalism in this book.

Quite literally the books opens with introducing us in depth to the people in the group. I really did appreciate this. The hikers become real people to the reader, not just faceless puppets in a sensational mystery. Although some of this information may be a little too much for some readers (this really depends on taste), I enjoyed this part and I think it shows how dedicated Eichar is as an investigator. He has talked to the people involved, and thoroughly did his research. This also applies to his investigation of the theories, and the final conclusion he comes to. Eichar addresses many of the popular theories with an open mind and argues why he feels they are more or less likely. Afterwards he presents his own (well researched!) theory, which in my opinion is the most plausible yet. This is not a definitive plea for his case: in the end the reader is left to draw their own conclusions, which can feel a little unsatisfying. Then again: what other way can you feel about a case that will probably never be definitively solved. My biggest criticism of the book was the pacing. As mentioned: the start goes very in depth on all the hikers backstories, and although interesting, is quite slow. There were moment here where I found myself a little bored, especially around the (first) description of the group embarking on their trip. This was in stark contrast to the final chapters on the theories. Some of those were quite short and fast. I would have liked a little more depth here, possibly at the expense of some of the earlier parts.

It’s 2018 as I’m writing this review, and in all honesty: all theories described in this novel can be found with a quick google search. It really is the story of the people and the in depth explanation where this book shines. If you are mildly curious and just want a quick glance of this case, this book may be to in depth and you might be satisfied just by reading some articles. If you know a little about it and (like me) were fascinated by what you learned, this book might be for you.

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