IT HAS the makings of an extraordinary, all-expenses-paid, first-class indulgence: a five-day northern lights cruise to the Arctic tip of Norway aboard a lavishly appointed vessel so exclusive it carries no more than a dozen handpicked passengers.
Not surprisingly, British travel writer Lauren ‘Lo’ Blacklock is acutely conscious of her privileged status alongside fellow journalists, photographers and potential investors invited to join the maiden voyage.
At the same time, her enthusiasm is overshadowed by the echoes of a violent burglary at her flat in London only days before her scheduled departure that has left Lo with bruises on her face and a case of crippling insomnia. Her preparation is dampened even further by an ill-timed argument with her boyfriend and the temptation to self-medicate with alcohol.
It’s an unfortunate lead-up to what Lo has been hoping will become her big career break: the chance to finally show off her professional capabilities.
Surely such luxurious surrounds will be the healing balm that’s needed to help Lo conquer her nightmares and refocus – or so she thinks.
Within hours of boarding the tiny ship, however, Lo finds herself fearing for her safety all over again.
Jolted out of her boozy, sleepless, post-midnight daze by a human scream, she staggers to the railing of her cabin balcony to glimpse a female body slipping beneath the surface of the near-freezing ocean.
When her attempt to alert the ship’s security chief is brushed off, Lo begins to suspect that something truly sinister is occurring.
Is there a murderer lurking somewhere on board – one of the VIPs with whom she has already shared a dinner table, perhaps, or a member of the beautifully mannered but timid crew? Or did the mysterious ‘dead’ woman never exist at all, as an increasing number of people around Lo now insist?