Robert Edric, Author . St. Martin's/Dunne $24.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-312-28889-1

As Edric's novels have been winning top prizes and rave reviews in his native England since 1985, it's surprising that this starkly poetic tale of historic horror at the North Pole (originally published in 1992) should be the first of his books to arrive in America. But better late than never: the novel tells the mesmerizing and soul-chilling story of the fate of Sir John Franklin and the crews of two British ships, the Erebus and the Terror, which sailed in search of a Northwest Passage from Greenland to the Orient in 1845 and disappeared with all 135 of their men. Using facts that came out later, subtly woven together with fictional dialogue and speculation, Edric sets up a situation fraught with the excitement of discovery and the madness of an impossible undertaking. His characters are varied and believable: men setting out into the unknown for reasons ranging from driving ambition to insatiable scientific curiosity—fans of Patrick O'Brian will recognize them all. Readers will also come away with a knowledge of the fearsome damage ice can do to a boat, to a man's body and to his soul. Evidence of this last effect comes early on, as the ships encounter survivors from a wrecked whaler, starving and weakened with scurvy, dragging themselves across the ice. An officer named Fitzjames offers supplies and medicine, and points the men toward Greenland; the survivors demand to be taken aboard and ferried back before the Erebus and Terror continue on their royal mission. Fitzjames refuses ("Uppernavik being so near... he felt himself absolved of some part of his responsibility toward the stranded whalers"), little guessing that the same grim fate may lay in store for him as well. Maps. (Feb. 13)

Reviewed on: 11/19/2001
Release date: 02/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-312-31113-1
Hardcover - 278 pages - 978-0-224-03305-3
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 978-0-312-70418-6
Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-4299-7333-5
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