I’ve just finished reading Dark Matter by Michelle Paver (below). I’d never read anything by her before but apparently she has written some children’s fiction. It was mainly the tag line ‘A ghost story‘ that made me buy the book. There’s not too many of those about these days; I mean a straight forward supernatural ghost story in the old fashioned M.R. James sense (even my own book Ghost Road isn’t quite that orthodox). The story takes the form of a journal written by the central character Jack Miller who joins an expedition to the Arctic and finds himself marooned in a haunted place alone except for a malevolent presence.

It takes a while to adjust to the slow pace of Dark Matter but once you remember that this kind of book is all about atmosphere rather than action you can really start to enjoy it. And I did enjoy it. Towards the end I really, really enjoyed it. And I actually found it scary. Not many books actually scare me (shock me, yes, but not scare me). This one did. A minute after I finished reading it I thought I heard a strange noise from upstairs. Turns out it was my daughter snoring but for a moment I was actually bricking it! I never do that!

This book contains good, uncliched characters which develop over the course of the narrative, perfect pacing building nicely towards the finale, and description which is atmospheric but doesn’t ramble on needlessly. It doesn’t pander to current fads, doesn’t throw in cheap thrills, doesn’t do the easy thing. My favourite parts were the mysterious ‘bear post’, the relationship between Jack and Gus, the amazing descriptions of the Arctic, and the unfashionably slow pace. If you do read this book I’d advise you to stick with it until the end before you make your mind up. For me, it was only after I’d finished it that I realised how much I’d enjoyed it. And how completely brilliant it is.



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