Purgatory Road by Bob Reiss. Simon & Schuster 1996. New York. 240 p. ISBN: 0-684-81119-7.
In the prologue Jack Amirault, a young scientist at the U.S. Ellsworth Base in Antarctica, defying the authority of Rick Page the base manager, goes out to rescue Robyn Williams in the middle of a storm. Robyn, a young environmental activist, was trapped during a trek through a mountain pass called Purgatory Road. She was walking 250 miles to show the world that the Antarctica is in danger. Jack and his best friend Brian Phillips manage to rescue Robyn, but Brian looses his life and Jack catches a severe depression.
A year later the story begins when Jack is back at the base and Robyn has returned to finish her trek, while in the meantime a crucial treaty, opening the Antarctica to mining developments, is about to be signed. One night Jack’s sister, another scientist at the base, is found half eaten by leopard seals. Everybody believes in a fatal accident, but Jack is sure that she has been murdered. During the course of his investigation Jack gets himself into trouble and needs to prove his innocence. Could this murder be eventually connected with the treaty signature?
The book just praises the individual efforts against adversity. It doesn’t matter whether it takes the form of adverse natural elements, or hidden interests of countries or multinationals. Under the cover of a mixture of genres: romance, adventure, espionage, suspense, or even murder it is totally unrealistic. Except for the setting I got the impression that I have seen this story before in any Hollywood style TV film. The information given about past events is totally irrelevant to the plot which has plenty of coincidences, most of them were difficult to believe. The characters lack any real depth and it all ends up like a fairy tale. It was just not worth reading it.
This was my first book set in Antarctica for my participation in the 2010 Global Reading Challenge.