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.

The books I picked & why

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Frankenstein: Or `The Modern Prometheus': The 1818 Text

By Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley,

Book cover of Frankenstein: Or `The Modern Prometheus': The 1818 Text

Why 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.


Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow

By Peter Høeg,

Book cover of Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow

Why 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.


Deception Point

By Dan Brown,

Book cover of Deception Point

Why 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.


Burial Rites

By Hannah Kent,

Book cover of Burial Rites

Why 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.


Into the Wild

By Jon Krakauer,

Book cover of Into the Wild

Why 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.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Arctic Circle, the American West, and murders?

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