Review of ‘Breathless’ by Amy McCulloch

An ice-cold thriller set on the eighth-highest mountain in the world, Manaslu in Nepal. It didn’t encourage me to go mountaineering, that’s for sure! There are many ways to die on the mountain: avalanches, slips, equipment failure, oxygen depletion and… murder.

Book cover of Breathless by Amy McCulloch showing a mountain.

The narrative follows Cecily Wong, a journalist who’s hoping for her big break with her interview of superstar mountaineer, Charles McVeigh. The catch is, she has to reach the summit with his team. She’s not a complete novice but no one is convinced she’ll make it, not even herself. When the expedition begins, sinister events occur and it appears that reaching the summit is not the only danger Cecily faces.

I really liked the premise of the book and how evocative the writing is of the author’s experiences, including the challenges faced by women mountaineers. I found the story difficult to get into at first but by the halfway point I was keen to turn the pages. Cecily seemed a bit too nice to be a real character and I would have appreciated either more background on her (not limited to her mountain and journalism experiences) or some narrative perspectives from the other people on the climb. Unfortunately I guessed the murderer almost instantly and was correct. There were some other twists I didn’t guess, so there was still an element of the unpredictability crucial for a thriller. I found the writing style somewhat inelegant, with a lot of repetition and the same descriptions of expressions. Everyone grimaced, winced, widened their eyes or narrowed their eyes with a startling frequency.

In summary, an unusual thriller which will make you shiver.

Published in 2022.

Leave a Reply