5. Whiteout by Ken Follet
In this offering by the international bestseller, a freak Christmas Eve blizzard becomes the backdrop to a high-adrenaline thriller about biological terrorism. Two cannisters of a deadly virus have gone missing from a secret, high-security pharmaceutical lab and it’s a contest between the law and the terrorists to find it first. There’s the usual mix of traditional villainous characters you’d expect, spiced up with a few delightfully original psychopathic ones, and of course there’s Follet’s trademark agonizing tension, breakneck pace and exuberant readability that will hold you captive until the very last page.
4. Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg
Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow is the original Scandinavian crime novel from which all else followed. When Smilla’s 6-year-old neighbour falls to his death from a Copenhagen rooftop, the police believe it’s an accident. Smilla takes it upon herself to prove otherwise, following increasingly perilous clues through the snow until eventually she reaches the wilds of Greenland and comes face to face with the terrifying truth. Smilla is a wonderful character – the self-aware, determined outsider – and provides the warm heart of this atmospheric whodunnit, where the thick winter whiteness is her ally and her enemy as well.
3. Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekbäck
Wolf Winter is part historical thriller and part literary Nordic noir. In an isolated Lapland community in 1717, during the bleakest of winters, 14-year-old Frederika stumbles on the mutilated body of a man in the forest. The town blames the wolves but Frederika’s family are sceptical and what follows is a story where the very concept of the ‘Scandi Dream’ is challenged, and where utopia and dystopia chillingly collide and it becomes impossible to tell the difference between the two. The landscape is stark and threateningly drawn, and rich historical details brings the period exquisitely to life.
2. Snowdrops by AD Miller
This is a taut psychological thriller set in a wintery, lawless Moscow, where ‘snowdrops’ aren’t flowers but the name given to the bodies that are discovered when the snowdrifts thaw. It follows a high-flying British journalist, Nick, who is seduced by an enigmatic young Russian woman. Masha leads him deep into the shadows of Moscow’s nightlife and he soon finds himself with secrets he’d prefer to bury in the snow forever too. It’s a frenetic read – intelligent, cynical and seedy – and one that shows how terrifyingly easy the slide can be from upstanding citizen into moral decay.
1. Dark Matter by Michelle Paver
Dark Matter is a ghost story set in the 1930s, in the wilderness of the extreme north. It follows Jack, a young Londoner who is bored, alone and desperate to change his life. On a whim, Jack joins an Arctic expedition and heads for Norway with five men, eight huskies and high expectations, but as they reach the remote island that is their destination, the summer finished and the endless polar night engulfs them, unease sets in. The travellers discover they are not alone. This is haunting period writing, dripping with a terrible inevitability throughout and cunningly pitched to illustrate how fear is truly the greatest equaliser, and – try as you might – time waits for no man.