Breathless by Amy McCulloch reviewed

Breathless Book Cover Breathless
Amy McCulloch
Penguin Michael Joseph UK, Michael Joseph
February 17, 2022

When struggling journalist Cecily Wong is invited to join an expedition to climb one of the world's tallest mountains, it seems like the chance of a lifetime.

She doesn't realise how deadly the climb will be.

As their small team starts to climb, things start to go wrong. There's a theft. Then an accident. Then a mysterious note, pinned to her tent: there's a murderer on the mountain.

The higher they get, the more dangerous the climb becomes, and the more they need to trust one another.

And that's when Cecily finds the first body . . .

Breathless by Amy McCulloch

In Breathless Reporter Cecily Wong is invited to join a high altitude expedition. A very successful alpinist is going to climb an 8000 metre peak and wants her to do the interview with him when he succeeds. However this is on the condition that she also reaches the summit assisted. This would be a real scoop but a very serious challenge. Charles McVeigh is the climber and he is intending to complete his plan to scale all 14 of the 8000 metre peaks without oxygen – this one will be the last. Cecily on the other hand is virtually unknown and is a complete amateur in terms of climbing (and to some degree reporting).

Breathless follows the story of the climb through Cecily’s eyes. While it seems an overwhelming challenge to her she believes she can do it. After the small team get together on the walk in rather strange things start to happen. Among the other pressures Cecily faces is that her job is on the line. If she gets to the top and gets the interview she will be very well placed. If not she will probably be unemployed. Another facet of this is that the team she is with is not the only one hoping to climb the mountain which adds to the tension. Are there climbers with other agendas here?

There is obviously a lot of research about high level mountaineering gone into this book. However the idea that walking up some hills might prepare you for taking on an 8000 metre peak is simply silly to me. Allow that and some suspension of belief in the possibilities and I guess I found this an ok read. It’s not badly written and was fairly well paced. The characters were not very well developed I guess other than Cecily maybe. However they weren’t bad. The descriptions of the climbing environment are very good.

Breathless is essentially a climbing thriller. There are some twists and turns in this story which were ok. All in all I found this quite interesting and entertaining as a read. I don’t think I was fully convinced by it though. I doubt anyone who has read true stories of high mountain climbing would be convinced by this but I’m sure quite many people will be entertained. 3.5/5

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review