Hold the Dark – Alaska – William Giraldi

hold the dark

Why the booktrail?

The Alaskan wilderness is all encompassing and eerily evoked

Story in a nutshell


The wolves have come for the children of Keelut.

Three children have been taken from this isolated Alaskan village, including the six-year-old boy of Medora and Vernon Slone. Torn apart by grief, she seeks the help of nature writer and wolf expert Russell Core. She wants answers and think this is the man to help her – he understands harsh environments, he might understand the wolves.

But when Russell Core arrives on the mountain, nothing is as it seems.Someone is watching. There are eyes in the wooded darkness…

Place and setting

Denali “Denali makes its own weather. There're more lost planes in this state than there are lost kittens in a city.” Bering Bridge  the wolves are said to walk across this land here Skagway
“Denali makes its own weather. There’re more lost planes in this state than there are lost kittens in a city.”
Bering Bridge
the wolves are said to walk across this land here

You might want to wear your thickest woolen cardigan when reading this book and have a cup of something hot in your hands as this book will give you the chills. Not sure if the idea of wolves coming for the villagers’ children or the landscape of snow and ice is the most chilling but when together, the result is eerie to the extreme.

The wolves came down from the hills and took the children of Keelut. First one child was stolen as he tugged his sled at the rim of the village, another the following week…..

Keelut is a small and remote village in Alaska. When Russell arrives on the plane he is immediately lost in a land of snow and ice, of snow up to his shins and hills which “loomed in protection or else threatened to clamp”

This place doesn’t have roads he is told so even his journey to Keelut from the airport is one fraught with danger. And once there his journey gets harder when he is told more about the wolves and the missing children. Torn between his love for the animal  since he has worked in Yellowstone park as part of overseeing their reintroduction since the gray wolf has been hunted to near extinction by that point.

The warnings that he shouldn’t be there come thick and fast-

Do you have any idea what’s out those windows. Just how deep it goes?How black it gets?How that black gets into you?

The warnings don’t come soon enough however for in his search for the wolves responsible, Medora Slone goes missing. This is the part of the journey where violence and grim grim reality come to the surface….

There are eyes in those woods and they are watching…

Bookish musings

A short novel at only 190 pages but one which packs a punch. Its writing is as stark and direct as the subject matter but this fits nicely to highlight even more the fear and the rawness of the story and landscape.

Disturbing in many places (more so than the blurb even suggests with the killing of children) and detached characters made this a short sharp shock of a novel. The landscape is both seen through the eyes of the ones who live there – the families who have lost their children but we as  readers see it through the eyes of the nature writer and traveller Russell Core who loves and fears the creatures but who tells us later on that he even disliked the book Peter and the Wolf for the way it taught us to hate and fear the creatures. So seeing him in this landscape, having to face the possibility that these creatures are responsible  for deaths is interesting.

Once Medora Sloane goes missing, the novel takes a new dark and twisted turn and the psychological study which follows is perhaps one of the darkest dips into the human mind that I’ve read in a while.

Grim but ultimately fascinating

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