Where the Dead Wait

Emily Bestler: Atria. Dec. 2023. 400p. ISBN 9781982182823. $27.99. HORROR
After finding success with Antarctic horror in All the White Spaces, Wilkes returns with the story of Willam Day, a failed Arctic explorer whose 1869 crew resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. Disgraced, Day has spent the last 13 years dealing with his guilt, until he is called on to help rescue a shipmate from that mission: Jesse Stevens, now lost, once again, in the Arctic. Despite serious misgivings, Day heads back into the danger of the unforgiving landscape, this time with Stevens’s wife, a noted American spiritualist, on board. Told from Day’s perspective in alternating time frames, the novel shows both journeys going from bad to worse, guided by a haunted man who is actively unraveling. Wilkes also leans into the slow-burn pacing, filling the book with detailed descriptions of the boat, the topography, and the characters, a narrative choice that unsettlingly mimics both the plight of the crew and the obsession which anchors the terror.
VERDICT Fans of the historical horror Alma Katsu or polar exploration nonfiction, such as In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides, will rejoice, but the intense psychological horror and isolation will also appeal to those who enjoy space horror similar to Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes.
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