HELL BELOW ZERO
as by Louis Masterson
originally published in Norway in 1969
Life in Dakota territory was tough. The only people who wanted to live there were the fur trappers and the Indians. For ten years there had been peace – no Indians had been shot and no white men had been scalped. Then somebody decided they didn’t like it that way. Strange ‘accidents’ began to happen to the Indians – like the body of Three Crew (or what the wolves had left of it) being found several miles from his burnt out hut.
U.S. Marshal Morgan Kane was sent to investigate. He hired himself the best guide in the area, an old timer name of ‘Skinny’ MacSween, and started out on the bloody trail of the killers who didn’t shoot their victims, but left them to die in the cruel Dakota snow…
This book finds Kane taken out of his usual stamping grounds of deserts and heat and sent to a state gripped in winter, having to face the risk of freezing to death. Kane discovers that near the frozen solid bodies of each dead Indian are tracks of a sledge and two men, and then, after the horror of a massacred Indian camp, the hunt is on.
Somehow I didn’t feel that Masterson (Kjell Hallbing) was as confident writing this book of a land of cold and snow as he was writing about heat and desert landscapes. Kane was his usual self, tough, brutal and relentless in his pursuit of the killers and in finding out the reasons for these strange deaths.
Masterson also didn’t put Kane through any of the cruel heartache that he usually does either. The story almost having a happy ending for Kane this time around.
I found Hell Below Zero entertaining enough but would place it with the weaker entries in the series. Maybe it’s the translation that failed to convey the true atmosphere of this book.