Review: Zodiac Station by Tom Harper

_GMH2729I first met Tom Harper when he had a different name. Well, many of us do, don’t we? He was appallingly young, and had been a student actuary, like me, but had decided to leave that profession and take up an infinitely worse paid job as an author. Basically, he was not one of those folks who find accountancy too exciting, so was not cut out to be an actuary. Which is, I think a very good thing for thriller readers.

Tom initially wrote a book that was based on a Flashman-esque character. His initial concept and outline was so good, it was a runner-up in the CWA’s Debut Dagger when I was running it about fourteen years ago. However, since then Tom has progressed brilliantly, with conspiracy stories, Templar stories, and now this: a modern thriller set in the Arctic.

Zodiac is a research station on the island of Utgard, well inside the Arctic circle. There nights last all day in the winter, and in the summer everyone gets crusty because there is constant daylight. When the US Coast Guard icebreaker Terra Nova works its way through the pack ice, there shouldn’t be anyone for hundreds of miles in any direction. But the scientists want to measure the ice thickness, check the water quality and take readings, so the ship pauses, setting them down on the ice with plenty of armed sailors to protect them from bears. But instead, they find a lone skier approaching. He is, he says, an English research assistant working at Zodiac. There has been a terrible accident: an explosion that’s destroyed the whole complex. As far as he can tell, almost everyone is dead, but there may be some survivors. He came on skis to find help.

The captain is sympathetic, sends a helicopter to check the site and sets course for the island to see if the ship can provide any help. This is the beginning.

By telling his story from multiple perspectives, Tom has woven a convincing tale of greed, jealousy and murder all against the entirely convincing backdrop of the snow and ice. It is a little like Ice Station Zebra, but by telling the story from a number of different points of view, he keeps the story taut and convincing. And it gets increasingly confusing, too, as he shows what motivated each of the scientists and mechanics, and as each makes their own discoveries, leading to a final astonishing climax.

A great book, well written, thrilling and compelling. Tom is a masterful writer, one of our best today. I highly recommend this one.


ZODIAC STATION by Tom Harper, published by Hodder & Stoughton on 26th February price £7.99

ISBN: 978 1 444 73142 2


4 Responses to “Review: Zodiac Station by Tom Harper”
  1. Not much of a fan of espionage-type thrillers, but you’ve intrigued me with this one. It’s going on the (ever-growing) list…


    • I’d give it a try. It has the Ice Station Zebra aspects of snowy espionage, but it’s much more modern, and with a plot that came as a surprise to me. Be interested in your views.


  2. As a teenager I aspired to be an actuary. Then I met one and that encounter put me off forever! In the end I became a cool and hip computer geek :)


    • Love that. I was a student actuary (failed every exam) as was my wife. And my father, brother and two nephews are all actuaries too, making the Jecks family the most productive in the world at producing very boring people!


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