When Nights Were Cold

Susanna Jones

31 January 2013
352 pages


As Queen Victoria’s reign reaches its end, Grace Farringdon dreams of polar explorations and of escape from her stifling home with her protective parents and eccentric, agoraphobic sister.

But when Grace secretly applies to Candlin, a women’s college filled with intelligent, like-minded women, she finally feels her ambitions beginning to be take shape. There she forms an Antarctic Exploration Society with the gregarious suffragette Locke, the reserved and studious Hooper and the strange, enigmatic Parr, and before long the group are defying their times and their families by climbing the peaks of Snowdonia and planning an ambitious trip to the perilous Alps.

Fifteen years later, trapped in her Dulwich home, Grace is haunted by the terrible events that took place out on the mountains. She is the society’s only survivor and for years people have demanded the truth of what happened, the group’s horrible legacy a millstone around her neck. Now, as the eve of the Second World War approaches, Grace is finally ready to remember and to confess . . .

From one of the finest writers of the psychological thriller comes this beautifully woven, deeply unsettling historical novel; powerfully atmospheric, shivering with menace and reminiscent of the very best of Sarah Waters.

‘Superior psychological thriller . . . Jumping between the past and the present the reader gradually begins to realise that the picture is not so straightforward . . . Ultimately, however, When Nights Were Cold is a novel about a soul that has frozen over. Some years ago the husband and wife team Nicci French wrote an excellent novel called Killing Me Softly which also centred on events that happened far up on a mountain, away from civilisation, amid the ice and snow. This book is a worthy successor. Ice in veins and all that’ Daily Express
‘An unsettling tale of turn-of-the-century lady adventurers. Susanna Jones specialises in chilling tales with ambiguous narrators, somewhere between straightforward crime and psychological speculation . . . This all-female environment is vaguely unsettling, and Jones relishes its disquieting atmosphere . . . There is an air of hectic derangement to the story, a cackling foreboding; every figure appearing as a type – none more so than Grace, an arch dissembler. Right up to its tingling showdown on the Matterhorn, this claustrophobic, disturbing books excels’ Sunday Telegraph
‘A vivid, shivery tale of obsession and emancipation in Edwardian England . . . Eerily atmospheric, Jones' novel is a pitch perfect study of the volatile emotions that can transform friendships' Marie Claire