Thomas Olde Heuvelt
It’s One Thing to Lose Your Life
It’s Another to Lose Your Soul
When climber Nick Grevers is brought down from the mountains after a terrible accident he has lost his looks, his hopes and his climbing companion. His account of what happened on the forbidden peak of the Maudit is garbled, almost hallucinogenic. Soon it becomes apparent more than his shattered body has returned: those that treat his disfigured face begin experiencing extraordinary and disturbing psychic events that suggest that Nick has unleashed some ancient and primal menace on his ill-fated expedition.
Nick’s partner Sam Avery has a terrible choice to make. He fell in love with Nick’s youth, vitality and beauty. Now these are gone and all that is left is a haunted mummy-worse, a glimpse beneath the bandages can literally send a person insane.
Sam must decide: either to flee to America, or to take Nick on a journey back to the mountains, the very source of the curse, the little Alpine Village of Grimnetz, its soul-possessed Birds of Death and it legends of human sacrifice and, ultimately, its haunted mountain, the Maudit.
Creepily compulsive right from the first chapter, Echo is a dark combination of gothic and folk horror which is so effective, it literally left me cold. Set primarily in the Swiss Alps, it captures the beauty, danger, and bleakness of the mountains perfectly, providing a backdrop for Sam and Nick’s somewhat dysfunctional love story after Sam’s worst fear comes true, and Nick nearly dies in a climbing accident.
I found Sam to be somewhat difficult to relate to, as he seems quite superficial – much more worried about Nick’s looks after the accident than he is about how Nick feels – but that’s more because he’s a jerk than any issue with the writing. Other than that, the narrative is compelling, and even though the story is told from both men’s point of view, it doesn’t lose cohesion.
I’ve personally never understood people who deliberately risk life and limb to do mad things like climbing mountains, but I think I do now, just a little bit. I assume that the author is a mountaineer, partly due to the technical detail outlined in this novel, but mostly because Nick’s passion for climbing comes across as so incredibly genuine that I can’t imagine someone who doesn’t also feel that way writing about it. However, I’m glad I read the novel on my Kindle, as I’d have been lost without the immediate access to a dictionary and Wikipedia to help with the frequent bits of jargon. It also helped to be able to translate the various languages.
At one point , I took a quick break to make a cup of tea, and when I glanced up at the kitchen window, I fully expected to see little except snow swirling in the darkness. I can’t remember the last time a horror got into my head enough to do that. On that basis alone, I will definitely be picking up more of Olde Heuvelt’s books in future.
I received a free reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Publication date: 3rd February 2022 (English translation)