Do you like unsolved mysteries that aren’t of the serial killer variety? Have you ever pondered the existence of yetis or aliens? Do you love a good political conspiracy theory, particularly if it involves the Cold War USSR and/or radiation? Then, boy, do I have the book for you. I rarely read non-fiction, but I was completely captivated by Dead Mountain when I first read the blurb.
“In February 1959, a group of nine experienced hikers in the Russian Ural Mountains died mysteriously on an elevation known as Dead Mountain. Eerie aspects of the incident – unexplained violent injuries, signs that they cut open and fled the tent without proper clothing or shoes, a strange final photograph taken by one of the hikers, and elevated levels of radiation found on some of their clothes – have led to decades of speculation over what really happened.”
Dead Mountain is the kind of book that I just didn’t want to put down. The author, investigative journalist Donnie Eichar, thoroughly analyzes this twisty real-life mystery, going so far as to hike the same Siberian route that those hikers took in 1959. Not only that, but he delves into the lives of each of the hikers, exploring their friendships and politics, and it is incredibly interesting to read. It’s fascinating to glimpse the lives of these hikers, most of which were in their early twenties at the time of the hike. The author also discusses the politics of the USSR at that time, and it had a ton of really interesting info about Cold War Russia.
I don’t know how I went this long without hearing about this mystery, but my Dad knew about it and was so excited to talk with me about it. He and I both love a good monster story, and this is such a compelling mystery, and one that a lot of people point to as evidence for the existence of the yeti or “snowmen.”
The author does come to a conclusion for what he believes happens to the hikers, and, I’ll tell you, he doesn’t think it’s aliens or yetis. While he comes to a perfectly probable and sensible solution to the age-old mystery, it’s not quite as fun as the monster story I really wanted it to be. I still think this is a fascinating read, and one of my favorite non-fiction reads ever.
I listened to this on audio, and it was actually a really great reading experience. The author narrates the book, and I really enjoy a good author-narrated audiobook. The investigative/journalist feel of the book works really well as an audiobook, and gives it a nice podcast-esque feel.
Bottom line: It’s a really interesting non-fiction read, with an excellent audiobook narration. Not all I hoped it would be, but I still definitely recommend. 4/5 stars.