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Literature / The Hike (2023)

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The Hike is a 2023 thriller novel by Lucy Clarke.

Liz, Helena, Maggie and Joni have been best friends since high school, despite all their lives going in different directions. Every year they go on vacation together, taking turns for each of them to choose a destination. They usually select relaxing beach holidays, but this year Liz is determined to do something more adventurous: a four-day hike and camping trip along the remote Svelle Trail in Norway, taking them up and over Blafjell Mountain.

Despite their misgivings, the other three agree to the trip, but on the very day they arrive things take a turn for the sinister. Blafjell is described by some locals as a dark place with strange energies, a place where the veil between this world and the afterlife is thinner. The friends try to dismiss this as pure superstition, but then there's the undeniable fact a young woman went missing on the mountain just a year ago, never to be seen again. And the trail can be treacherous even for experienced travellers if the weather turns, while phone reception is all but non-existent.

As the four friends commence their hike, they increasingly sense that blisters, bug bites and bad weather may be the least of their worries. Someone is out there with them in the rugged wilderness, someone who knows what happened to the missing woman. Someone willing to make them disappear, too.

Tropes found in this novel include:

  • Alone Among the Couples: Inverted; Liz is the only member of her friend group who is in a stable long-term relationship. The others are currently single: Joni is in a relationship with her manager Kai at the start but they don't seem that into each other and break up early on over the phone, Helena is going through a string of casual hook-ups and hasn't had a serious relationship in years, and Maggie's brief marriage ended in divorce about a year ago. Initially unbeknownst to the others, Liz's marriage isn't doing so well of late either, though she's reluctant to reveal this.
  • Artistic License – Geography: While the Svelle Trail and Blafjell Mountain are real locations in Norway, Lucy Clarke stated in an author's note that she intentionally fictionalised them (including shifting the locations) for the purposes of the story.
  • Ashes to Crashes: Played for Drama; Helena brings the urn containing her mother's ashes with her on the hike, intending to scatter them along the Svelle Trail as a way to get closure over her death. The urn ends up buried under tons of mud following a landslide, with Helena futilely trying to dig it up.
  • Bait-and-Switch: While searching for the missing Maggie, the friends hear screaming and rush towards the sound, seeing a man bringing down a rock on something; in the previous scene, Maggie had tried to pick up a rock in case she needed to defend herself from Erik, only for him to see this and confront her. However, the man with the rock is Vilhelm, not Erik, and it turns out the screaming wasn't from a woman but a rabbit Vilhelm's dog mortally wounded; he was just putting it out of its misery
  • Best Friends-in-Law: Liz's husband Patrick has been one of her older brother's best friends since high school; it was through Liz's brother that they first met and grew close.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Joni saves Maggie, Liz and Helena from Vilhelm, but is killed in the process, much to her friends' grief. A remorseful Leif gets a reduced sentence because he fully cooperates with the police and helps expose a large drug smuggling operation. Austin is sent to prison for his role in the smuggling, but is shown some leniency due to suffering years of coercive control by Vilhelm. Erik runs the lodge and cares for his mother, now free of being suspected of Karin's murder but having to cope with his brother covering up the truth; he becomes penpals with Maggie. Helena is happy as a single mother and there may still be hope for Liz and Patrick's marriage. Liz, Helena and Maggie regularly take up hiking as a way to remember Joni.
  • Blatant Lies: When Helena confronts Joni about why she didn't come to her mother's funeral, Joni tries to claim she was on tour overseas and couldn't make it that weekend. Helena retorts that she checked the dates and Joni wasn't scheduled to perform that weekend, so she could've easily travelled to the UK for the funeral. Joni can't bring herself to explain to Helena and the others that she didn't feel she deserved to go to the funeral, as she knew how proud Helena's mother was that Joni became a music star but she feels she's a fraud who is wasting her life; instead, Joni spent that weekend getting drunk alone in a hotel room.
  • Child Hater: Downplayed with Helena, who doesn't despise children but doesn't enjoy being around them for long periods - the only exception being Maggie's three year old daughter Phoebe, who she adores - and is convinced she isn't patient or selfless enough to be a mother; she's stated for years that she never wants children and it was the main reason her last serious relationship ended, as her ex changed his mind regarding that subject. She's shocked when she finds part of herself does want children after finding out she might be pregnant (and learning her ex now has a daughter), despite her current lifestyle being ill-suited to have children and her not even being in a relationship. It's later subverted, with Helena realising that she wants children but was afraid of failing as a mother, and deciding to keep her unplanned pregnancy.
  • Creepy Red Herring: Erik often behaves in an aggressive and off-putting manner, gives other people a wide berth and he was the last known person to have seen Karin before she disappeared; Karin's father publicly accuses Erik of killing Karin. Erik seems to be following the protagonists along the Svelle Trail and acts in a very creepy and suspicious manner towards Maggie (who resembles his girlfriend) when he encounters her alone in the woods. Erik had nothing to do with Karin's murder and knows nothing about the cocaine smuggling that led to her death.
  • Dead Artists Are Better: While Joni certainly wasn't unsuccessful as a musician when she was alive, it's mentioned that following her death her last album stays at the top of the charts for seven weeks, Helena's video of Joni's final live performance gets 20 million views and Joni's ex-boyfriend/manager Kai seems to forget all the problems they had (including threatening to sue her for breach of contract when she walked out on him) and gives interviews where he bangs on about Joni being the love of his life, with the implication it's because in death she's making him even more money.
  • Dead Sparks: The root of the problem in Liz and Patrick's marriage, which has led to them mutually agreeing to a trial separation. They still care deeply for one another; the passion has simply fizzled out of their relationship and they barely spend any quality time together. They mostly only talk about their children or related subjects (as it's all they seem to have in common these days), they've stopped having sex because they both find it unappealingly routine and they don't really know what the other wants anymore. Liz desperately hopes that the trip to Norway and trial separation will help give them some perspective and improve their marriage, as she dreads the idea of divorce.
  • Death by Childbirth: Joni's mother died of labour complications - namely an infection she contracted - a few days after giving birth to Joni. While not explicitly brought up, it's implied this contributed to Joni's lifelong issues with abandonment and feeling unworthy of love.
  • Death Equals Redemption: Joni sees sacrificing her life to protect her friends from Vilhelm as this; she'd hurt them all with her selfish and thoughtless decisions, in particular sleeping with Liz's husband and endangering them by stealing cocaine, and she's determined that they all make it home safe even if she doesn't. She didn't know for certain she'd die, but she knew the risk and is accepting of her death. Her friends all mourn her deeply; while Liz admits she's still angry at Joni for what she did, she also misses Joni and acknowledges that she died to save her, Helena and Maggie.
  • Destructive Romance: Joni's relationship with her manager Kai is depicted as unhealthy and unaffectionate; neither of them truly seem to care about each other. Kai mostly values Joni for her musical talent and the money it brings him, introduced Joni to cocaine and appears oblivious to her worsening mental state; Joni thinks little of cheating on Kai and ditching him in a Berlin hotel room to go hiking in Norway without so much as a note. Notably, when Kai gets in contact with Joni in Norway, he isn't concerned about where she's gone and why she left so abruptly, instead berating her for abandoning her tour and threatening to sue her. After Joni dies, Kai makes a big show of how much he loved her, but her friends think it's obvious he's putting on an act to make more money off Joni's name.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • Liz says that when she first suggested a trial separation to Patrick, she'd secretly hoped he would tell her what a crazy idea that was and reaffirm their love for each other. Instead, Patrick responded that he thought it was a good idea because of how bad things have gotten in their marriage, leaving Liz with little choice but to agree.
    • Joni is persuaded to give a music performance for the lodge guests; Helena films it and uploads it to her Instagram. Joni's managers get wind of the video and the next day she receives a call saying she'll probably need a lawyer. Joni impulsively abandoned her music tour and has now been videoed performing at a separate venue, meaning she's in breach of her contract; she was caught up in the moment so the legal ramifications didn't even cross her mind at the time. When she asks Helena why she uploaded the video, Helena retorts that she just wanted to keep a special memory of her friend and show how proud she is of her; she has less than 20 followers on Instagram, so she didn't realise it would get noticed by anyone else.
    • At the start of the trail, a local woman warns Liz to turn back because a storm is coming; Liz brushes off her warning and doesn't mention it to her friends because the weather looks fine at the moment, the forecast was mixed at worst and she doesn't want to go back. The weather turns extremely nasty on the second night; the friends are forced to shelter in a cave from the thunderstorm because their tents can't withstand the downpour and the metal poles would make them a target for lightning strikes, leaving their belongings behind. The next morning they discover the storm caused a landslide that went right through their camp, destroying their supplies. Liz admits she didn't consider just how bad things could get if there was a storm, nor did she consider the effect it would have on Joni, who she knows is terrified of storms (she has to practically drag her out of the tent).
    • Joni impulsively steals a bag of cocaine she and her friends found stashed in a cave. At the time she was only thinking about feeding her habit, especially with how stressful their current situation is, but as her horrified friends point out, the person who left the cocaine will realise some is missing and will likely come looking for whoever took it, and they probably won't be a particularly savoury person. Vilhelm and Leif indeed come looking for them and Vilhelm nearly kills them all.
  • Differing Priorities Break Up: Helena thought her last serious boyfriend, Robert, was 'the one' as they seemed to have everything in common... until he told her he'd changed his mind about not wanting kids. Helena was adamant she still didn't want kids, so they broke up despite loving each other. A few years later, Helena learned that Robert had met someone else, they were engaged and expecting a child. Helena tried to be happy for him, but the news made her realise the idea of having children with Robert wasn't so unappealing after all.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • Helena's father has never been involved in her life, with it just being her and her mother as far back as she can remember.
    • Joni's father cleared off permanently when she was six years old, unwilling to take responsibility for her after her mother died. He only rarely gets in contact with Joni, usually to persuade her to get him free passes to music festivals she's playing at.
  • Disneyland Dad: Maggie thinks that Adrian tries to buy their daughter Phoebe's love with expensive gifts and that he doesn't know much about her on a personal level, such as her favourite songs and stories. Maggie, in contrast, doesn't have much money, but she's developed a close bond with her daughter by having fun with her and being there for her emotionally. Phoebe doesn't really enjoy going to her father's house - including being highly reluctant to spend a whole week there - and Maggie suspects Adrian just sticks Phoebe in front of the TV once he gets bored of engaging with her. The ending implies he's stepping up as a father more.
  • Disney Villain Death: Vilhelm is killed when Joni shoves him over the edge of Blafjell Mountain to protect her friends; unfortunately, he takes Joni with him.
  • Driven to Suicide: In her introductory chapter, Joni - who has struggled mentally for years - has some suicidal thoughts, which disturbs her. Later, she seriously considers jumping off the top of Blafjell Mountain because she's so filled with despair and self-loathing, but she ultimately doesn't go through with it.
  • Ensemble Cast: Liz, Helena, Maggie and Joni all get an equal amount of focus in the story, with the chapters alternating between which character's perspective is focused upon and all of them having important roles in the plot.
  • Et Tu, Brute?:
    • Liz is devastated and furious when she finds out Joni, her best friend since high school who she has continously defended no matter how bad she messes up, had slept with her husband and never intended to tell her until Liz directly confronts her. Liz is so angry she even briefly contemplates shoving Joni over a cliff edge; her anger towards her only lessens when Joni dies protecting the group from Vilhelm. Liz is consequently left with conflicted feelings towards her friend in the midst of her grief, as they were never able to fully address Joni's betrayal; Liz also feels guilty for wishing Joni dead, even if was only a temporary knee-jerk reaction.
    • Erik is extremely upset to learn that his own brother Leif has not only gotten involved in drug trafficking, but that he knew all along what had happened to Erik's girlfriend Karin, covered up her murder and allowed everyone in town to believe Erik was involved in her death (to cover up his drug crimes).
  • Extremely Short Timespan: With the exception of the epilogue (which is set around sixteen months later), the main plot takes place over the course of a week, with the bulk of the story taking place during an eventful four-day hike.
  • Face Death with Dignity: When Joni sees that Vilhelm is reaching for a knife, she shoves him over the edge of a cliff to protect her friends, as she's closest. Vilhelm grabs hold of her arm and pulls her over too. As she plunges to her death, Joni thinks that she knew the risk when she lunged for him and is quite calm and accepting; she closes her eyes and imagines she's stage-diving at one of her concerts, with adoring fans ready to catch her.
  • Fair-Weather Friend: Helena accuses Joni of being this type of friend, saying she's only there for them when they're all having a good time, but when things are tough she bails; although Maggie and Liz don't explicitly back-up Helena and they even defend some of Joni's actions, privately they admit Helena isn't completely wrong. Joni didn't come to visit Helena's mother - who treated her like a daughter growing up - when she knew she was dying, nor did she come to the funeral, and the only comfort she offered Helena was sending her flowers (which Helena suspects was handled by her PR agent). She also wasn't there to support Maggie when her marriage to Adrian broke down while she had a young daughter to look after. Joni does care about her friends and feels guilty when Helena lays into her about her failings as a friend; she just tends to be so caught up in her own problems she's oblivious to her friends' struggles, while also having a bad habit of dealing with problems by avoiding rather than facing them.
  • Family Eye Resemblance: It's mentioned that Helena's son Freddie has the same green eyes as his late maternal grandmother.
  • Fear of Thunder: Joni is absolutely terrified of thunderstorms, to the point she wasn't even comfortable with her make-up artist painting lightning stripes on her thumbnails. This stems from a childhood incident where she experienced her first thunderstorm and had no idea what was happening or where anyone was; there had been a powercut in the house and her father and his crew went to the pub next door, leaving Joni to wake up alone and run around the pitch-black house in terror. Consequently, when the group experiences a massive storm while camping on the second night, Joni quickly goes into panic-mode.
  • Four-Girl Ensemble: This trope applies to the four friends, who are all different in terms of personality and lifestyle, but still get along.
    • Maggie is the sweet, introverted artist who is the most openly nervous about the hike and gets anxious easily.
    • Rebellious, impulsive and hard-partying rock star Joni is the more tomboyish one out of the group.
    • Helena is the pretty and glamorous one, who likes the comfortable familiarity of her urban lifestyle, has lots of casual dates and hook-ups, and is never without lipstick even while hiking up a mountain.
    • Liz is the wise, motherly one of the group; she's a doctor and the one who organised the hike. She feels a sense of responsibility towards the others, is usually the one takes charge and tries to get them all to stick to the plan.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Applies to the four friends:
    • Joni is Sanguine. She's an impulsive, charismatic and fun-loving rock singer who likes making others happy, but she doesn't always think before she acts, has some self-destructive habits and a tendency to run away from her problems until she crashes and burns. She sometimes hurts or offends people with her thoughtlessness, but never does so with malicious intent and will make amends if it's pointed out.
    • Helena is Choleric. She's a methodical, extroverted and practical event organiser, prone to sarcasm and bluntly honest. She can be stubborn and resentful, especially if she feels hurt or let-down, and has some issues with her sense of self-worth (especially when it comes to relationships). At the same time, she's also good at picking other people up or saying the right thing to encourage them.
    • Liz is Melancholic. She's a caring, hardworking and introspective GP. She is usually the most responsible and level-headed of the group, but she can sometimes come off as bossy or self-righteous to the others despite meaning well. She also tends to keep her worries and insecurities to herself, not wanting others to see her under strain but then failing to explain why she's acting a certain way.
    • Maggie is Phlegmatic. She's a kind, introverted and highly sensitive artist, who gets anxious easily and often doubts herself. She can be submissive with a dislike of conflict; she's easy to get along with and a great listener, but not too good at standing up for herself.
  • From Bad to Worse: Things start going really wrong for the friends three days into their hike. An overnight thunderstorm forces them to shelter in a cave, where they discover a large stash of cocaine. The next morning they find that the storm caused a landslide, which has taken out all their gear and supplies, and blocked the trail they came in on. The only way back to the lodge is hiking up Blafjell Mountain with just the clothes on their backs; they'd previously decided against attempting the mountain because most of them aren't fit and experienced enough, but now they have no choice. Then they learn Joni had taken a bag of cocaine and they see someone going into the cave; they realise he's probably a drug trafficker who will quickly find out they've disturbed the stash and will come after them. They also know whoever it is may be responsible for Karin's disappearance, given they found her bracelet in the cave, which doesn't bode well for them.
  • Functional Addict: Joni used to tell herself she only did party drugs now and again, but now she needs a hit of cocaine to get herself hyped up before performances and then weed to calm down and go to sleep afterwards, not to mention taking more drugs and drinking alcohol in between. She realises she has a problem when she wakes up in the morning and the first thing she goes looking for is a bag of coke, as opposed to coffee or breakfast. While she's not yet completely ruled by drugs, Joni is scared of spiralling out of control and becoming an Addled Addict, which is part of the reason she agrees to go on a four-day hiking trip with her friends at the last minute. Her addiction leads to her impulsively stealing a bag of cocaine from the stash she and her friends find in a cave.
  • Fury-Fueled Foolishness: After a long day of hiking, Helena gets into an argument with Joni and Liz (when the latter tries to defend Joni) shortly before they reach a river they have to cross. Helena is so angry and fed up with her friends, she stubbornly tries to cross the river by herself despite Liz warning her that the current is too fast here and that they should cross together, with Helena dismissing her as being a know-it-all. Helena realises she's made a big mistake when she wades to the middle of the river and finds the current is too strong for her to go on, but she also can't easily turn around and go back. She slips on the rocks and lands face first in the water; although the river is only knee-deep Helena's pack pins her down and she would've likely drowned if Joni hadn't rushed in to pull her up and help her to the opposite bank. Helena knows she's lucky all she got was wet, cold and humiliated.
  • Glamorous Single Mother: Helena chooses to raise her baby by herself, as she isn't in a relationship with the father and isn't even sure who he is. She loves being a mother and while her life is busy, it's not depicted negatively. In fairness, Helena is well-off financially, her job as an event planner would be flexible around childcare (a big of chunk of it involves making phonecalls and sending emails) and she has two supportive friends who have children of their own to help, so she's in a good position to be a single parent compared to her mother (who struggled a lot more).
  • Happy Marriage Charade: Liz's friends often praise her marriage to Patrick for still being so happy and stable after many years, with Liz seemingly being the only one of their group with a successful long-term relationship. Liz initially goes along with this impression but in reality, her and Patrick's marriage has grown so stale and strained they're having a trial separation. Liz tries to avoid revealing anything is wrong because Patrick is close to her friends as well and she doesn't want either of them talking about the other behind their back, plus she's not even sure what will happen with their marriage.
  • High-School Sweethearts: Liz and Patrick began dating in high school and have been together ever since, now married with two children. While they were happy together for a long time, lately their marriage has been troubled, to the point they've privately decided to have a trial separation. Liz thinks that while she once considered it a point of pride that Patrick was the only man she'd ever kissed (let alone been in a relationship with), it's now something that causes her unease, with Liz wondering if she made a mistake and missed out on more life experiences by marrying the first man she ever dated and whether they still have anything in common. It turns out that Patrick may be having similar doubts, especially as he had a one-night stand with Joni, whom he briefly had a crush on in school.
  • Hostage for MacGuffin: Inverted in the climax; Vilhelm is holding Maggie at gunpoint, but Joni grabs hold of his backpack stuffed with cocaine and threatens to throw it off the mountain unless Vilhelm releases Maggie and drops the gun. She knows that Vilhelm won't be willing to risk losing a fortune in cocaine - especially as the other traffickers he works for will not take it well - so she's able to persuade him to do as she asks, though she also anticipates he'll still try to kill them all anyway; it'll just be much harder without the gun.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: Joni admits that deep down all she wants is to be loved by someone. She became a professional musician and enjoys performing publicly because she likes the adulation her audience and fans give her, even though she knows it's only a brief fix. She uses drugs, parties and casual sex to temporarily forget her loneliness, and feels she's unworthy of love. This stems from her childhood, including her mother dying in childbirth and her father abandoning her to be raised by her grandmother, who died when she was in her twenties.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: Helena finds out she's a few weeks pregnant shortly before beginning the hike. Consequently, she has to deal with morning sickness and feeling faint on top of the hike going horribly wrong, including facing natural dangers like storms and landslides, and being stalked by drug traffickers. The others are concerned for Helena when they find out she's pregnant, especially when she briefly passes out halfway up the mountain; Liz says she would never have made Helena do the hike if she'd known about the pregnancy, but Helena insists she'll be fine and that she chose to go on the hike even knowing she might be pregnant. Helena realises she wants to keep the pregnancy despite her fear of parenthood when she feels protective over her unborn baby.
  • It's All About Me:
    • Liz doesn't confide in her friends that the reason she really wants to hike up a mountain is because she's essentially having an early midlife crisis and her marriage might be on its last legs. When she finally admits it, some of her friends, especially Helena, are a bit put out, with Helena saying that if Liz had just told them what was going on they would've rushed to support her, instead of Liz insisting that the four-day hike was for all of them when it's really about her. Liz's defence is that she's spent years of her life looking after and catering to other people, including her husband, kids, patients and even her friends, and just wanted to do something for herself for once.
    • Joni tends to be self-absorbed; she usually puts what she wants first and rarely thinks about the potential effects on others until afterwards. In her case, she lives so much in the present moment and is so focused on her own issues she just doesn't consider other people. Notably, she couldn't bring herself to go to Helena's mother's funeral because of her own grief and because she felt unworthy of attending, but consequently she abandoned Helena during the worst moment of her life and failed to properly honour a woman who loved and supported her. Joni is aware she can be selfish and it's a trait she strongly dislikes. She's also not completely self-centered, as she does one of the most selfless things imaginable by sacrificing her own life to save her friends.
  • Like a Daughter to Me: Helena's mother regarded Helena's friend Joni as a daughter, especially as Joni grew up without parents and had no family save her grandmother. Helena's mother nurtured Joni's talent for singing and performing, and was incredibly proud of her success in adulthood. One of her last requests was that Joni perform at her funeral, or that they at least play a recording of one of Joni's songs if she couldn't make it. Helena is deeply hurt and angered that Joni didn't come to the funeral, as Joni knew how much Helena's mother cared for her.
  • Loving a Shadow: Joni thought she'd been in love with Patrick since high school when they hooked up several months back. However, she's since come to realise that while she cares for Patrick as a friend, she wasn't really in love with him, with her attraction to him being based on nostalgia over her teenage crush and her longing to be loved by someone the way Patrick loves his wife.
  • Married to the Job: Liz dedicates a lot of her time to her patients at the local doctor's clinic, not spending much personal time with her husband and children; she recalls working on patients' notes from home while Patrick played with their twins in the garden, and it's noted that Patrick tends to handle things like making meals and getting the kids ready for school because Liz doesn't have time. Although Liz enjoys her job, she does wonder if her excessive dedication to work is the reason her marriage is crumbling and that she might be missing out on important bonding moments with her kids.
  • Maybe Ever After: In the epilogue, which is set just over a year later, Liz and Patrick are still married and working on improving their relationship. Things are still far from perfect, especially with Liz having learned Patrick slept with Joni, but Liz mentions they enjoy going for walks together (thus spending more one-on-one time with each other) and that it's Patrick she instinctively turns to for comfort when she's overwhelmed with grief and trauma, so it looks hopeful they'll be able to save their marriage.
  • Never Found the Body: A young Norwegian woman named Karin disappeared on Blafjell Mountain a year ago. No trace of her was ever found, though given Karin was an experienced hiker who grew up in the area, foul play is suspected, with many people believing her boyfriend was involved as he was the last known person to see her and they'd argued about her intention to move away. It turns out two German hikers had spotted Karin's body on a ledge below a cliff shortly after her disappearance, but Leif pushed her body off the ledge into the river far below and reported the hikers had mistook a tarp for a body, which is why she was never found.
  • Posthumous Character:
    • Karin was a young woman who lived in a town near Blafjell Mountain and disappeared on the Svelle Trail a year ago. Although her body was never found, it's generally accepted that she's dead given how long it's been and her having no obvious reason to disappear voluntarily; she had a good relationship with her parents and was planning to move to Oslo to attend university. Many people believe she was murdered, with her troubled boyfriend Erik being a prime suspect given he was the last person to see her and he wasn't happy about her plans to move away. Karin's sinister disappearance hangs over the four friends throughout their hike and they eventually uncover what happened to her.
    • Helena's mother died of a terminal illness just ten months ago, so it's still quite raw for Helena. She feels some resentment towards Joni for not coming to the funeral, given how supportive her mother was towards Joni growing up. Helena admits to Maggie one of the main reasons she agreed to the hike is because her mother always wanted to go travelling abroad, but she didn't have the time or money when she was younger and then fell gravely ill when she was finally in a position to do so, which is making Helena re-think her own life. Helena plans on scattering her mother's ashes at the beach along the Svelle Trail. Helena also thinks her mother's death is a big influence on her warming up to the idea of motherhood, as her mother at least had her daughter with her at the end, while Helena is scared of dying alone.
    • Joni's grandmother, who raised her, died several years back. Joni took it hard, considering she was the only family she had who cared about her.
    • Leif and Erik's father, who ran the hiking lodge at the start of the Svelle Trail, was killed during a botched rescue mission on Blafjell Mountain a few years ago. Erik took it particularly hard, becoming withdrawn and angry, and leaving town for a while; Leif has taken responsibility for running the lodge and caring for their ailing mother. The incident also resulted in tourism to the trail taking a hit. Erik's grief for his father is a big reason he took it badly when his girlfriend announced she was moving away, while the loss of his father and subsequent financial difficulties compelled Leif to get involved in drug smuggling.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Joni was raised by her grandmother on and off since she was a baby and then permanently after she was six; her mother died shortly after she was born and her father dropped her off with her grandmother because he didn't want to be a single parent.
  • Really Gets Around: Helena can be promiscuous; when Maggie asks who she slept with that could've potentially gotten her pregnant, Helena replies "Who haven't I slept with?" On her first night in Norway, she also slips away from her friends to hook up with Austin, a random man she met just hours earlier. Helena admits that she tends to seek out hook-ups because of self-esteem issues and a craving for affection and validation from others; she doesn't even much enjoy having sex with Austin and feels ashamed afterwards.
  • Retirony: Helena's mother was finally thinking of retiring and going travelling when she was diagnosed with a terminal illness. It's part of Helena's motive for agreeing to the hike.
  • The Rock Star: Joni was always a talented singer and guitarist, with her grandmother, friends and Helena's mother encouraging her talent and passion for music. At 33, she's the successful and famous lead singer of rock band Horsefly. However, although Joni still loves to perform and write music, she's become disillusioned with her fame and the party lifestyle that comes with it; she frequently feels alone and empty inside, and is much happier hiking in the woods with her friends, even if it means abandoning her band in the middle of a tour and potentially wrecking her career.
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: Joni is a rock singer who regularly parties, has casual sex and does drugs while on tour. It's deconstructed as while she enjoys being a professional singer, the chaotic and hedonistic lifestyle she leads is presented as a temporary band aid for her emotional and psychological problems (stemming back to childhood) and ultimately makes her feel worse in the long run. Waking up after a night of partying, Joni realises how sick of it she is and abruptly abandons her tour to go hiking with her childhood friends, genuinely fearing she'll die if she stays.
  • Shrinking Violet: Maggie is quite timid and has difficulty asserting herself, with Liz noting she tends to defer to anyone who appears more confident and/or authoritative, including her friends. The downside is that she's easily cowed into doing what other people want and often doesn't speak up about what she wants; it's to the point she went through with a wedding she didn't really want because she too afraid to cancel and disappoint everyone.
  • Starter Marriage: Maggie's marriage to her ex-husband Adrian was brief, only lasting two years before they divorced (and it's implied they were living apart for some of that time as well). Maggie admits that she'd already been having doubts about their relationship before the wedding, having become increasingly aware of Adrian's more selfish and snobby side, but she went ahead with it because she'd just found out she was pregnant and she was too afraid to call off the wedding so late; Joni also suggests she was holding out hope the marriage would work out in the long-run. Needless to say, that hope was quickly dashed.
  • Struggling Single Mother: Helena was raised by a single mother, who worked two jobs to make ends meet and ensure her daughter was provided for.
  • They Know Too Much: Vilhelm killed Karin when she stumbled across the cave along the Svelle Trail where he kept the cocaine he was trafficking, as he knew she'd report it to the authorities and likely expose him and his accomplices. Vilhelm also attempts to kill Liz, Joni, Maggie and Helena when they find out about the drug trafficking, too.
  • Thriving Ex-Crush: Helena confides in Maggie that it upsets her to know her ex-boyfriend Robert - who she once hoped to marry - is now happily engaged to someone else and a doting father to his baby daughter. Originally, they both agreed they didn't want children, but Robert later admitted he'd changed his mind. Although the break-up was amicable, Helena tells Maggie that seeing how happy Robert is with his family made her realise that maybe she could've happy having children with him too, but it's far too late now. Helena hasn't had a serious relationship since breaking up with Robert and is deeply conflicted when she finds out she might be pregnant from a random hook-up. She keeps the baby and raises her son as a single parent
  • Took a Level in Badass: Maggie gains a lot of confidence during the hike, even with things increasingly going wrong. She goes from someone who was so anxious about standing up for herself she went through with a wedding she didn't really want, to guiding the entire group across a narrow mountain ridge (including calming down Liz when she experiences vertigo) and physically fighting off a person holding her at gunpoint.
  • Too Much Alike: While they may not seem alike at first glance, Helena and Joni are similar in that they both tend to be stubborn, opinionated and quick to go on the defensive if they feel personally attacked or judged, which is the reason they often clash. They do still care about each other, though, and it's not enough to completely turn them against each other, but they get along the worst in the friend group.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness:
    • Leif and Erik's father set out to rescue two inexperienced tourist hikers who had gotten stuck on Blafjell Mountain before a storm rolled in, forgetting to sign himself out using the lodge logbook. When the storm hit, he was still on the mountain, slipped and broke thirty-six bones. By the time it was realised he and the hikers were missing and a rescue operation was launched, Leif and Erik's father was beyond help.
    • A lot of the climax probably wouldn't have occurred if Joni hadn't impulsively taken some of the cocaine she and her friends happened to find, as it alerts Leif and Vilhelm that someone has found the drug stash and results in them coming after the friends atop the mountain, with Joni ultimately sacrificing her own life to protect the others.
    • Erik reveals that when he last saw Karin they'd argued because he reacted poorly to her news that she was going to move away to attend university; in his anger he stormed off to clear his head, leaving Karin alone in the DNT hut where they were staying. Karin was upset enough that she decided not to wait for Erik and headed back down the mountain alone, where she happened to spot Vilhelm going into the cave on the beach where he stashes his drugs (believing that no one else would be down on the beach at this time). When she went to investigate, Vilhelm killed her to protect his secret.
  • Twisted Ankle: Due to the poor visibility when she and her friends reach the mountaintop at nightfall, Maggie slips over and twists her ankle. Luckily, the group finds a nearby DNT hut to spend the night in, though Maggie's injury will make their journey down the mountain and back to the lodge even more difficult, especially with a dangerous drug trafficker on their trail.
  • Two-Timing with the Bestie: Late in the story, Liz happens to see unusual phone messages between Joni, her best friend since high school, and her husband Patrick; when Joni reacts guiltily to Liz's questioning, Liz deduces that Patrick and Joni slept together. Joni admits they had an impulsive one-night stand several months back when Patrick and Liz came to Dublin to see her in concert (Liz went back to the hotel early because of a migraine). They both immediately regretted it, with Patrick only phoning Joni prior to the hike to reaffirm it was a huge mistake and that he wanted to fix his marriage, which Joni agreed with. Understandably, Liz still feels extremely betrayed.
  • You Remind Me of X: Upon first arriving at the lodge, the group notices that lodge owner Leif and local couple, Bjorn and Brit, look startled by Maggie's appearance and keep staring at her "as if they've seen a ghost". Vilhelm explains it's because Maggie bears a resemblance to Brit and Bjorn's missing daughter, Karin, especially her hair and eyes. Leif's brother and Karin's boyfriend Erik outright calls Maggie "Karin" when he encounters her alone in the woods, with Maggie realising he's been watching her from afar.