The best Arctic Circle philosophical suspense books

Who am I?

I’m an award-winning speculative fiction author who loves logic and reason, so when philosophising over life’s greatest mysteries I often layer debate with scientific knowledge, and I found my way to the afterlife theories behind Towards White in my late teens. I was reading English at university at the time, but it wasn’t until I went to Iceland in 2001, and fell in love with the stark beauty of its lonely lava plains, steamy natural springs, glaciers, and auroras, that I was inspired to turn my ideas into a story. I then spent years thoroughly researching my theory, and wove it into a grippingly suspenseful arctic adventure. I hope you enjoy reading the result!


I wrote...

Towards White

By Zena Shapter,

Book cover of Towards White

What is my book about?

They know what’s going to happen to you…after you die.

Scientists in Iceland think they’ve figured out one of our greatest mysteries—where the electrical energy in our brains goes after we die. According to the laws of physics, one form of energy must always become another form. So the electrical energy in our brains and nervous system can't simply disappear... But when ex-lawyer Becky Dales travels to Iceland to track down her missing brother, she doesn't care about the groundbreaking discoveries or the positive thinking practiced by the Icelanders—she just wants her brother back. Having stumbled on something she thinks the Icelandic government wants covered up, Becky must piece together the answers fast…before she becomes a victim herself.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Frankenstein

Zena Shapter Why did I love this book?

Frankenstein is a breathtaking tribute to the unbridled power of science to test humanity’s limits—ethically, morally, and philosophically. “I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel,” says the creature on realising its flawed conception and lack of choice to be what it is. I love exploring this debate between intent and result in my own writing too, between why something might be created but then how it comes to be used. We are all flawed creatures, so the novel’s spine-tingling exploration of self-judgment also resonates. Its wondrously inhospitable and hauntingly cold settings—framed with its opening onboard a ship bound for the North Pole, and closing with the creature alone in the Arctic—only serve to embellish the thrill of this classically suspenseful and poignant novel.

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley,

Why should I read it?

38 authors picked Frankenstein as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the BBC's '100 Novels That Shaped Our World'

'That rare story to pass from literature into myth' The New York Times

Mary Shelley's chilling Gothic tale was conceived when she was only eighteen, living with her lover Percy Shelley on Lake Geneva. The story of Victor Frankenstein who, obsessed with creating life itself, plunders graveyards for the material to fashion a new being, but whose botched creature sets out to destroy his maker, would become the world's most famous work of horror fiction, and remains a devastating exploration of the limits of human creativity. Based on the third…


Book cover of Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow

Zena Shapter Why did I love this book?

Dangerous glaciers, frozen seas, a meteorite hidden in ice, an arctic heritage, and a keen sense of snow that makes our heroine suspect a loved one has been murdered—all serve to create a visceral and beautifully-told suspenseful novel that not only grips but haunts the imagination. But perhaps what I love most about this bookand which inspires me in my own writingis how its emotionally-challenged heroine simultaneously puts aside and delves into her memories to solve the mystery, reflecting the illogical and complex reality of the power of the past. An icebreaker ship heading to a remote island off the Greenland coast offers a thrilling yet ambiguous finale.

By Peter Høeg,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The original Scandinavian thriller

One snowy day in Copenhagen, six-year-old Isaiah falls to his death from a city rooftop.The police pronounce it an accident. But Isaiah's neighbour, Smilla, an expert in the ways of snow and ice, suspects murder. She embarks on a dangerous quest to find the truth, following a path of clues as clear to her as footsteps in the snow.


Book cover of Deception Point

Zena Shapter Why did I love this book?

The search for truth is such a powerful force that, in the right circumstances, it can not only propel us to explore the darkest, coldest, and most dangerous recesses of the planet, it can make us question everything we know about life and death, love and betrayal. This classic thriller indulges readers with an exciting adventure across the snow and ice to explore one of the greatest scientific mysteries of all time: is there extraterrestrial life? But perhaps what makes this book so memorable, at least to me, is how deliberately the story tests our faith in friendship, family, and those we trust to lead us.

By Dan Brown,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Deception Point as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On the eve of a presidential race in which NASA's budget is a pivotal issue, the space agency announces the discovery of an ancient meteorite filled with fossils deep in the Arctic ice.


Book cover of Burial Rites

Zena Shapter Why did I love this book?

Although we all face challenges, some challenges are more often experienced by women than men, and vice versa. This foreboding and strikingly desolate novel depicts such insightful representations of the female experience that it’s hard to know what resonates more deeply—the factual basis that inspired the story, or the wild barren plains of Northern Iceland that hide philosophical mysteries of truth and sacrifice. Murder, executions, survival, love, and passion, all adorn the ongoing suspense of how the story’s inevitable conclusion will end.

By Hannah Kent,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Burial Rites as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Set against Iceland's stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.

Set against Iceland's stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution.

Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tv=ti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her.…


Book cover of Into the Wild

Zena Shapter Why did I love this book?

Why do we make decisions that put our lives at risk? Why do we have such a deep connection with nature? To what lengths would we go to find peace, especially when recovering from a traumatic relationship? I love exploring questions such as these in what I read and in the stories I write, and this extraordinary mixed-genre non-fiction account of self-discovery abounds with philosophical and suspenseful debate, constantly driving us towards its ending in a lethal Alaskan wilderness. As well as the book’s sublime depictions of the unconquerable nature of snowy mountains, glaciers, and rivers, what I loved most about this story is its presentation of the illusory nature of self-reliance. However much we might value independence and inner strength, we all need the help of others, even strangers, to live our best lives.

By Jon Krakauer,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked Into the Wild as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Krakauer’s page-turning bestseller explores a famed missing person mystery while unraveling the larger riddles it holds: the profound pull of the American wilderness on our imagination; the allure of high-risk activities to young men of a certain cast of mind; the complex, charged bond between fathers and sons.

"Terrifying... Eloquent... A heart-rending drama of human yearning." —New York Times

In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all…


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Oaky With a Hint of Murder

By Dawn Brotherton,

Book cover of Oaky With a Hint of Murder

Dawn Brotherton

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What is my book about?

Aury and Scott travel to the Finger Lakes in New York’s wine country to get to the bottom of the mysterious happenings at the Songscape Winery. Disturbed furniture and curious noises are one thing, but when a customer winds up dead, it’s time to dig into the details and see what ferments.

Is there any truth to the Native American legends that cluster near Seneca Lake? Is the warrior’s disapproval of wineries growing legs? Aury will need to pour over the clues to unearth the mystery before the winery’s reputation is crushed. With the annual wine festival just around the corner, Aury harvests more than she bargained for when the killer tries to bottle her up for good.

Oaky With a Hint of Murder

By Dawn Brotherton,

What is this book about?

Aury and Scott travel to the Finger Lakes in New York's wine country to get to the bottom of the mysterious happenings at the Songscape Winery. Disturbed furniture and curious noises are one thing, but when a customer winds up dead, it's time to dig into the details and see what ferments.


Is there any truth to the Native American legends that cluster near Seneca Lake? Is the warrior's disapproval of wineries growing legs?


Aury will need to pour over the clues to unearth the mystery before the winery's reputation is crushed. With the annual wine festival just around the…


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