Friday, July 13, 2018


Rating: 4.5/5 stars

When I initially heard about the Dyatlov Pass Incident, I couldn’t get my hands on this book fast enough. The story is this: nine experienced hikers are all found dead, buried in the snow near their tent in the northern Ural Mountains during a winter hiking trip, some having experienced blunt force trauma, some with traces of radiation on their clothing, one who’s missing a tongue, and all without shoes on in the subzero temperatures. But the strangest thing is their tent was cut at multiple times with a knife, producing a huge hole in the backside. What would lead these nine hikers to destroy and flee their only form of shelter, improperly clothed, in freezing weather?

The book starts off by talking about the nature of the hike and the background of each of the hikers. The author also talks about his personal obsession with this unsolved mystery and why he flew to Russia to uncover more details. I really enjoyed the nature of which Eichar told the story by jumping to different time periods. We read about the group of hikers preparing for and taking the trip in January 1959, the investigative efforts from February to May 1959, and the author’s own trip to Russia and subsequent research in 2012 and 2013. Telling the story this way really added to the mystery and suspense, and it kept me reading late into the night to uncover the next important detail.

There are some details Eichar discusses for longer than I thought necessary because I didn’t see how they pertained to the investigation. Such details were about the political climate in Russia and what Russian life was like back in the 1950s. It probably helped to set the scene for when the incident took place, but I was so focused on finding out the answer to the mystery that I felt like these tangents slowed down the reading. However, in the second half of the book, I felt like every detail mattered, and the pace really picked up for me.

Eichar told this story using photographs and diary entries from each day of the hikers’ journey up to the night the tragedy occurred, and this was a huge asset to the book. Readers were put in their shoes, and these records were crucial in determining when and where the hikers died. He also includes interviews with various people involved with the case, as well as the thoughts of some family members of the deceased hikers, starting with leader Igor Dyatlov’s younger sister informing the university that their hike was three days late and then being upset that the school didn’t seem to care.

The best part of this book, in my opinion, was toward the end when Eichar discusses in depth each theory that has been proposed over the decades of what happened that fateful night. He tackles all the popular theories as well as some of his own to conclude what he believes to be the most accurate explanation of the hikers’ deaths. Then he recreates the story of that night according to that “truth.” It really was fascinating to read about why he accepted or dismissed each theory according to his years of research, including interviews with top scientists, to support his decision.

I would highly recommend this book if you’re interested in a nonfiction mystery. I hadn’t even heard of the incident until the day before I started the book, but now I can say that this book and the story it tells will stick with me for the rest of my life.

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