Ghillinnein Books (2018)
Reviewed by Jennifer Wilson for Reader Views (10/18)
“Mountain of the Dead” is the fifth book in Jeremy Bates’ World’s Scariest Places series. Based on my research, Jeremy Bates is already an accomplished author, and this installment definitely showcases his talent.
If you have never picked up a Jeremy Bates novel, don’t hesitate to start with this one. Before receiving “Mountain of the Dead” for review, I had never read Bates’ work. I have long been a fan of Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and Frank Peretti and I feel confident that I can now add Jeremy Bates to that list.
Based on the true and macabre tragedy of the Dyatlov Pass Incident, as it is now known, the author has done a fantastic job of mixing truth with fiction. Sometime during the night of February 1, 1959, nine Russian hikers exit their tent through cuts made from the inside. They run out into a blizzard with no supplies and, for most of them, no suitable protective clothing. Bluntly speaking, they ran towards their certain death. What were they running from? Why would these well-experienced hikers choose to freeze to death rather than stay in the relative protection of their tent? That’s what the fictional character, true crime author Corey Smith, has set out to explain.
After months of heavy research, and the most difficult season of his personal life to date, Corey and his friend “Disco” Brady, a movie star, leave the warmth and comfort of Los Angeles to travel the same path through the Ural Mountains that the Dyatlov group trekked. He has planned the trip to the finest detail as to capture as much of the same experience as they, with the hopes of determining, once and for all, what happened to the 7 men and 2 women who perished that night. Even taking with him the director of the Dyatlov Memorial Foundation, a friend of group leader Igor Dyatlov, and the leading expert on the case by far. What makes the story so intriguing to those researching it, is that not all the hikers died from exposure to the subzero temperatures. One of them even missing their tongue.
The actual mystery of the Dyatlov Pass Incident is very interesting on its own. But, the way Bates adds his own ideas and imagined re-creation of events to the exhaustive research that is evident, this book becomes an awesome work of fiction. Bates chose to create a chapter by chapter juxtaposition between the journey undertaken by the Dyatlov group in 1959, and the current day’s journey of Smith, Disco and their group. Is there a logical explanation to the deaths that caught the attention of a country and caused its government to keep access restricted in the area for three years after the incident? Or, is the only explanation a supernatural one?
The story, told as a countdown of the group’s days on the mountain, the inclusion of real pictures of the group, taken from film found at the scene, can sometimes make you question what really happened and what is the imagination of the author. Truth, folk history of the Mansi tribe, a real indigenous people of the area, horrifying fiction, shocking revelations, the list goes on, all weaved together in such an intricate way. This was a real page-turner that will keep propelling you to an ending that I found surprising, yet, amazingly believable.
I highly recommend “Mountain of the Dead” and I look forward to finding out if Jeremy Bates’ catalogue has any more out-of-the-park hits for me to enjoy.