Excerpt from Forty Days Without Shadow by Olivier Truc, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Forty Days Without Shadow

An Arctic Thriller

by Olivier Truc

Forty Days Without Shadow by Olivier Truc
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2014, 480 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2014, 480 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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Prologue

1693, Central Lapland

Aslak stumbled, a sign of exhaustion. He never missed his footing otherwise. The old man kept a firm hold on the package he was carrying. He rolled forward, head over heels. A clump of heather broke the force of his fall. A lemming darted out. Aslak got to his feet. Glancing back, he estimated his advance on his pursuers. The baying was louder now. There was little time left. He continued his silent race. His deep-set eyes burned brightly. His gaunt features and jutting cheekbones gave him a mysterious, hieratic air. He ran on, sure-footed now, trusting to instinct, working his body hard. He smiled and quickened his breathing, feeling fleet and light, sharpeyed, infallible. He knew he would not fall now. Knew, too, that he would not survive this mild and gentle night. They had been tracking him for a long while. It had to end.

He took in every detail of his surroundings: the high plateau, the ancient commotion transfixed in the rocks, the sinuous lakeshore describing the outline of a bear's head, the rounded summits of the distant mountains, bare of vegetation. He could just make out the forms of the sleeping reindeer, a rushing stream. He stopped, barely out of breath. Here. Aslak stood solemnly, clutching the package, gazing at the scene. The stream tumbling into the lake, reindeer tracks threading east across the mountain, where the sun's gleam heralded the last dawn before the long winter night. He saw a small island in one corner of the lake and made his way toward it, cutting through the

dense thickets of dwarf birch with his knife. The islet was covered in heather and scrub. The barking was louder still. Aslak pulled off his boots and tossed the birch branches onto the mud, leaving no trace as he crossed the marshy tract. He reached the rocky island, clambered up, pulled aside a section of heather and buried the package under its roots. He retraced his steps and ran on. He was no longer afraid.

The dogs tore on, closer than ever. Soon, the men would emerge over the summit of the hill. Aslak gazed one last time at the lake, the mountain stream, the islet. The sun's rays marbled the clouds with bright streaks of purple and orange. Aslak ran and knew his legs would carry him no farther. The dogs were upon him. The growling mastiffs formed a circle but left him untouched. He stood motionless. It was over. The men were there, panting and pouring sweat. They looked vile, but their eyes were filled with dread. Their tunics were torn, their footgear sodden. They leaned heavily on their sticks, waiting. One man stepped forward. Aslak looked at him. He knew. He had understood. He had seen this before. The man avoided the Laplander's gaze. He walked around, behind Aslak.

A violent blow shattered the old nomad's cheek and jawbone. Aslak fought for breath. Blood spurted. He dropped to his knees. The cudgel was raised for a second strike. He swayed in shock, though he had tried to brace himself. A thin man arrived on the scene, and the attacker's gesture froze. He lowered the cudgel to his side and stepped back. The thin, wiry man was dressed all in black. He shot an icy glare at Aslak and the man with the cudgel, who recoiled and glanced away.

"Search him."

Two men stepped forward, relieved that the silence had been broken. They tore the Laplander's cloak from his back.

"No sense in resisting, savage devil."

Aslak said nothing. He did not resist, but still the men were terrified. His pain was overwhelming. He was pouring blood. The men pulled him this way and that, forced him to drop his reindeer-skin

leggings, pulled off his boots and his four-cornered hat. One of them hurled it into the distance, taking care to spit on it first. The other took Aslak's knife, its handle crafted from antler and birchwood.

From the book Forty Days Without Shadow: An Arctic Thriller. Copyright (c) 2012 by Olivier Truc. Reprinted by permission of Twelve/Hachette Book Group, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

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