Read an Excerpt
The bottom of the planet, in the depth of winter. Hurricane-force winds howl on the icescape. Temperatures drop as low as 110 degrees below zero. The world is illuminated only the stars and the brilliant aurora australis. It is so cold that planes cannot operate, engines freeze and a false step away from the flagged pathways can mean disorientation in a fog of blowing snow. There is no possibility of evacuation, and no chance of outside rescue. You depend on the tiny group of fellow South Pole researchers for companionship, for competence, for life itself. Except that one of you is a killer . . .
At Amundsen-Scott research base, outside is an utterly flat plateau of ice two miles thick and inside is an icicle-laden dome with the throb of generators, the smell of fuel oil, and twenty-six men and women who’ve come from all walks of life — an uneasy mix of personalities, specialties, sexual tension and outright conflict. Each is playing his or her role in some of the most advanced scientific and psychological experiments of our time. They are like pioneers, or astronauts, and members of a hardy fraternity know as the “Three-Hundred-Degree Club.” And now, one by one, the winter-overs begin to die.
Jed Lewis was the last arrival before winter descended on the South Pole. He is a geologist who mysteriously jettisoned a high-paying job with an oil company to come to the one place that seemingly has no rocks, the literal end of the world. But he’s quickly drawn into controversy over the discovery of a small meteorite that may be a fragment of Mars and worth millions of dollars on the open market. When the meteorite is stolen, Lewis is accused. Then the killing begins, and every piece of evidence points to him.
Suddenly Jed finds himself with only one ally, a woman to whom he is growing dangerously attracted. But even she has her doubts of this newcomer. And as darkness deepens, he must desperately investigate and understand a proud and aging physicist, a philosophizing psychologist, a disgruntled laborer, a harried station manager and a seductive researcher, among others, if he is to find the real killer.
“Dark Winter” pits humanity’s noblest instincts for discovery against our species’ most primal behavior, all set against the real world of a South Polar station that I have visited as a science reporter. This is a story of both suspense and ideas about humankind’s fundamental nature.
“A fascinating, pressure-cooker thriller . . . the characters are complex, vivid, and realistic and the setting — as exotic as the moon or Mars — is stunning.”
–Larry Bond, author of Red Phoenix and Day of Wrath
“Extremely suspenseful . . . Dietrich takes you to a forbidding place and then traps you there. A fascinating look at the technical microcosms with which humans will soon have to deal, especially as humanity confronts the challenges of deep space travel.”
–P.T. Deutermann, author of The Edge of Honor and Hunting Season
“An amazingly taut, credible and harrowing thriller . . . merely turning the pages can give you frostbite. Reading this, I felt like a ‘winter-over’ myself — and have the lingering claustrophobia to prove it.”
–Lincoln Child, coauthor of The Relic and The Ice Limit
“A superb writer . . . A landscape masterfully painted.”
“Tightly constructed, fast and very real . . . will send chills through you.”
“Dietrich evokes well the implacability of the Pole, and his detailings of daily life at the base ring with authenticity.”
“A real psychological thriller.”
“You can tell the author has been there.”
“The authenticity of Dietrich’s settings is always a plus.”
“You’ll be riveted . . . a chilling peek into a dark place more merciless and terrifying than the polar night, executed in a manner which throws off sparks not even eternal ice can snuff.”
“Dietrich sets a new standard for adventure fiction in this thriller.”