Journalist Cecily Wong has a bad track record when it comes to mountaineering. But when charismatic and internationally famous mountaineer Charles McVeigh invites her to join his record-breaking final climb of the year on Manaslu, she knows its a potentially career-making opportunity. The only catch? No interview until she summits.
Putting her past failures behind her, Cecily joins the team. But when a climber dies under mysterious circumstances, she becomes suspicious. By the time the second climber dies, it's too late to back out now. Stuck in a mountain death zone , she has to battle her own self doubt, the elements... and a killer who is determined to leave no witness to tell the tale.
Breathless is both a survival story and a murder mystery and it literally gave me the chills. Cecily is an every woman, suddenly thrust, relatively unprepared, into the privileged, pricey, and competitive world of mountaineering, a world were death is not unusual and the biggest obstacle is not necessarily the climb. As Cecily prepares to tackle Manaslu, she also begins to learn about the people on her team and the various reasons why they climb. It's an insider's look into a club that I, frankly, had never thought to even try to join.
McCulloch's descriptions of the climb, the cold, the dangers, and the heights were bone-chillingly realistic. When one of the characters nearly falls through a crevasse, I found myself shouting aloud a warn. Honestly, I didn't know that my fear of heights could be triggered by a book. Turns out, it can. While the mystery itself is solved fairly easily (someday I'm going to write a book of rules for the amateur sleuth!), the book is still intense because of the duel nature of the threat - the human and the mountain.
This book was gripping and terrifying. I highly, highly recommend it. Unless you're planning on tackling Everest. In which case, maybe wait until after the climb lest you psych yourself out.