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Fiction Action & Adventure

The Apollo Murders

by (author) Chris Hadfield

Random House of Canada
Initial publish date
Oct 2021
Action & Adventure, Space Exploration, Crime
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2021
    List Price

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The #1 bestselling Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is back with an exceptional Cold War thriller from the dark heart of the Space Race.
“An exciting journey to an alternate past” Andy Weir, author of The Martian

Nail-biting” James Cameron, writer and director of Avatar and Titanic

Not to be missed” Frederick Forsyth, author of The Day of the Jackal

Explosive” Gregg Hurwitz, author of Orphan X

Exciting, authentic” Linwood Barclay, author of Find You First

1973. A final, top-secret mission to the Moon. Three astronauts in a tiny module, a quarter of a million miles from home. A quarter of a million miles from help.
As Russian and American crews sprint for a secret bounty hidden away on the lunar surface, old rivalries blossom and the political stakes are stretched to breaking point back on Earth. Houston flight controller Kazimieras "Kaz" Zemeckis must do all he can to keep the NASA crew together, while staying one step ahead of his Soviet rivals. But not everyone on board Apollo 18 is quite who they appear to be.
Full of the fascinating technical detail that fans of The Martian loved, and reminiscent of the thrilling claustrophobia, twists and tension of The Hunt for Red October, The Apollo Murders puts you right there in the moment. Experience the fierce G-forces of launch, the frozen loneliness of Space and the fear of holding on to the outside of a spacecraft orbiting the Earth at 17,000 miles per hour, as told by a former Commander of the International Space Station who has done all of those things in real life.
Strap in and count down for the ride of a lifetime.

About the author


Chris Hadfield est un des astronautes les plus chevronnés et les plus accomplis du monde. Il est aussi l'auteur des succès de librairie internationaux Guide d'un astronaute pour la vie sur Terre et You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes. Le meilleur étudiant diplômé de la U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School en 1988 et le pilote de l'année du U.S. Navy test en 1991, Chris Hadfield a été sélectionné par l'Agence spatiale canadienne comme astronaute en 1992. Il a assumé la fonction de commandant de la Station spatiale internationale où il a réalisé un nombre record d'expériences scientifiques et a supervisé une sortie d'urgence dans l'espace. Il a aussi publié des photographies à couper le souffle et des vidéos éducatives sur la vie dans l'espace qui lui ont valu une reconnaissance mondiale. Sa vidéo en apesanteur de la chanson « Space Oddity » du regretté David Bowie a été visualisée plus de 30 millions de fois en ligne!


Chris Hadfield is one of the world's most seasoned and accomplished astronauts, and is the author of the #1 international bestseller, An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth and You Are Here: Around the World in 92 Minutes. The top graduate of the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School in 1988 and U.S. Navy test pilot of the year in 1991, Hadfield was selected by the Canadian Space Agency to be an astronaut in 1992. Hadfield most recently served as Commander of the International Space Station where, while conducting a record-setting number of scientific experiments and overseeing an emergency spacewalk, he gained worldwide acclaim for his breathtaking photographs and educational videos about life in space. His music video, a zero-gravity version of David Bowie's “Space Oddity,” has received more than 30 million views online.


Chris Hadfield's profile page

Excerpt: The Apollo Murders (by (author) Chris Hadfield)


Chesapeake Bay, 1968

I lost my left eye on a beautiful autumn morning with not a cloud in the sky.

I was flying an F-4 Phantom, a big, heavy jet fighter nicknamed the Double Ugly, with the nose section newly modified to hold reconnaissance cameras. The nose cone was now bulbous, which meant the air flowed differently around it, so I was taking it on a test flight over the Chesapeake Bay to recalibrate the speed sensing system.

I loved flying the Phantom. Pushing forward on the throttles created an instantaneous powerful thrust into my back, and pulling back steadily on the control stick arced the jet’s nose up into the eternal blue. I felt like I was piloting some great winged dinosaur, laughing with effortless grace and freedom in three dimensions.

But today I was staying down close to the water to measure exactly how fast I was going. By comparing what my cockpit dials showed with the readouts from the technicians recording my pass from the shoreline, we could update the airplane’s instruments to tell the truth of the new nose shape.

I pushed the small knob under my left thumb and said into my oxygen mask, “Setting up for the final pass, 550 knots.”

The lead engineer’s voice crackled right back through my helmet’s earpieces. “Roger, Kaz, we’re ready.”

I twisted my head hard to spot the line-up markers, big orange reflective triangles on posts sticking up out of the water. I rolled the Phantom to the left, pulled to turn and align with the proper ground track, and pushed the throttles forward, just short of afterburner, to set speed at 550 knots. Nine miles a minute, or almost 1,000 feet with every tick of my watch’s second hand. The shoreline trees on my right were a blur as I eased the jet lower over the bay. I needed to cross in front of the measuring cameras at exactly 50 feet above the water. A very quick glance showed my speed at 540 and my altitude at 75, so I added a titch of power and eased the stick forward a hair before leveling off. As the first marker raced up and flicked past under my nose I pushed the button, and said, “Ready.”

“Roger” came back.

As I was about to mark the crossing of the second tower, I saw the seagull.

Just a white-gray speck, but dead ahead. My first instinct was to push forward on the stick so I would miss it, but at 50 feet above the water, that would be a bad idea. My fist and arm muscles clenched, freezing the stick.

The seagull saw what was about to happen and, calling on millions of years of evolved avian instinct, dove to avoid danger, but it was too late. I was moving far faster than any bird.

We hit.

The technicians in the measuring tower were so tightly focused on their sighting equipment they didn’t notice. They briefly wondered why I hadn’t called “Ready” a second time and then “Mark” as I crossed the third tower, but they sat back from their instruments as the lead engineer calmly transmitted, “That’s the last data point, Kaz. Nice flying. See you at the debrief.”

In the cockpit, the explosion was stupendous. The gull hit just ahead and left of me, shattering the acrylic plastic canopy like a grenade. The 550-mile-an-hour wind, full of seagull guts and plexiglas shards, hit my chest and face full force, slamming me back against the ejection seat, then blowing me around in my harness like a ragdoll. I couldn’t see a thing, blindly easing back on the stick to get up and away from the water.

My head was ringing from what felt like a hard punch in my left eye. I blinked fast to try to clear my vision, but I still couldn’t see. As the jet climbed, I pulled the throttles back to midrange to slow down, and leaned forward against my straps to get my face out of the pummeling wind, reaching up with one hand to clear the guck out of my eyes. I wiped hard, left and right, clearing my right eye enough for me to glimpse the horizon. The Phantom was rolling slowly to the right, and still climbing. I moved the control stick to level off, wiped my eyes again, and glanced down at my glove. The light brown leather was soaked in fresh, red blood.

I bet that’s not all from the seagull.

I yanked off the glove to feel around my face, fighting the buffeting wind. My right eye seemed normal, but my numb left cheek felt torn, and I couldn’t see anything out of my left eye, which was now hurting like hell.

My thick green rubber oxygen mask was still in place over my nose and mouth, held there by the heavy jawline clips on my helmet. But my dark green visor was gone, lost somehow in the impact and the wind. I reached back and pivoted my helmet forward, wiggling and recentering it. I needed to talk to somebody, and fast.

“Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!” I yelled, mashing down the comm button with a thumb slippery with blood. “This is Phantom 665. I’ve had a birdstrike. Canopy’s broken.” I couldn’t see well enough to change the radio frequency, and hoped the crew in the observation tower was still listening. The roar in the cockpit was so loud I couldn’t hear any response.

Alternately wiping the blood that kept filling my right eye socket and jamming the heel of my hand hard into my left, I found I could see enough to fly. I looked at the Chesapeake shoreline below me to get my bearings. The mouth of the Potomac was a distinctive shape under my left wing, and I used it to turn towards base, up the Maryland shore to the familiar safety of the runways at Patuxent River Naval Air Station.

The bird had hit the left side of the Phantom, so I knew some of the debris from the collision might have been sucked into that engine, damaging it. I strained to see the instruments—at least I couldn’t see any yellow caution lights. One engine’s enough anyway, I thought, and started to set up for landing.

When I leaned hard to the left, the slipstream blew across my face, keeping the blood from running into my good eye. I shouted again into my mask: “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, Phantom 665’s lining up for an emergency straight-in full stop, runway 31.” Hoping someone was listening, and that other jets were getting out of my way.

As Pax River neared I pulled my hand away from my left eye and yanked the throttles to idle, to slow enough to drop the landing gear. The airspeed indicator was blurry too, but when I guessed the needle was below 250 knots I grabbed the big red gear knob and slammed it down. The Phantom made the normal clunking and shuddering vibrations as the wheels lowered and locked into place. I reached hard left and slapped the flaps and slats down.

The wind in the cockpit was still my own personal tornado. I kept leaning left, took one last swipe at my right eye to clear the blood, set the throttles about two-thirds back, jammed my palm back into my bleeding left eye socket, and lined up.

The F-4 has small bright lights by the windscreen that glow red when you’re at the right angle for landing, and it also sounds a reassuring steady tone to say you’re on-speed. I blessed the McDonnell Aircraft engineers for their thoughtfulness as I clumsily set up on final. My depth perception was all messed up, so I aimed about a third of the way down the runway and judged the rate of descent as best I could. The ground on either side of the runway came rushing up and slam! I was down, yanking the throttle to idle and pulling up on the handle to release the drag chute, squinting like hell to try to keep the Phantom somewhere near the middle of the runway.

I pulled the stick all the way back into my lap to help air-drag the 17-ton jet to a stop, pushing hard on the wheel brakes, trying to bring the far end of the runway into focus. It looked like it was coming up too fast, so I stood on the brakes, yanking against the leverage of the stick.

And suddenly it was over. The jet lurched to a stop, the engines were at idle, and I saw yellow fire trucks pulling onto the runway, racing towards me. Someone must have heard my radio calls. As the trucks pulled up I swapped hands on my injured eye, reached down to the throttles, raised the finger lifts and shut off both engines.

I leaned back against the ejection seat and closed my good eye. As the adrenaline left my body, excruciating pain took over, a searing fire centered in my left eye socket. The rest of me was numb, nauseous, soaking wet, totally limp.

The fire chief’s ladder rattled against the side of the Phantom. And then I heard his voice next to me.

“Holy Christ,” he said.

Editorial Reviews

“[A] brilliantly realized fictional scenario that's as tense as the Cuban Missile Crisis. . . . [Hadfield] proves himself to be a talented writer and readers are kept guessing as his plot spins and twists like a comet in full flow. It’s a genuinely exciting trip.” —Business Post (Ireland) 

“Ambitious . . . clever . . . [and] gutsy. . . . Rich in the kind of scientific and technical details that made Andy Weir’s The Martian (2014) and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora (2015) such treats, the book also features very well drawn characters, natural-sounding dialogue, and a story that leads the reader to expect a spectacular conclusion (and delivers it). Perfect for fans of science fiction/mystery combos.” —Booklist
“[A] spectacular alternate history thriller. . . . [Hadfield’s] mastery of the details enables him to generate high levels of tension . . . An intelligent and surprising nail-biter that Tom Clancy fans will relish.” Publishers Weekly

“This is such a terrifically confident, well-written thriller that to find it is the author’s debut is unexpected; and, as a bonus, it’s classier than most other Cold War novels because Hadfield (who spent time in Russia) gives us fully realised Soviet characters.” —The Sunday Times

“There’s maybe one person on Earth with the writing chops and the expertise to write a to-the-Moon thriller this exciting, this authentic. Chris Hadfield is that guy.” —Linwood Barclay, New York Times bestselling author of Find You First
“A nail-biting Cold War thriller set against a desperate Apollo mission that never really happened … or did it? It’s a very rare book that combines so many things I love, from taut suspense and highly realistic action, to the golden age of space exploration. I couldn't put it down.” —James Cameron, writer and director of Avatar and Titanic
“Not to be missed. Even in fiction there is authenticity. It is either there... or it is not. With Chris Hadfield it is, because everything he describes he has really seen.” —Frederick Forsyth, New York Times bestselling author of The Day of the Jackal and The Fox
“An explosive thriller from a writer who has actually been to Space and back… Strap in for the ride.” —Gregg Hurwitz, New York Times bestselling author of the Orphan X novels

“Chris Hadfield’s twisty thriller blasts off and turns the Cold War hot, as superpower conflict erupts in the cramped confines of the Apollo module. America’s final moon mission confronts even greater challenges: an armed Soviet orbiter, an aggressive moon rover and a cosmonaut determined to draw a line in the regolith. Old-school tech is the background for machine guns in space and knife fights on the moon—and it’s all entirely plausible, written by someone who could have been there.” —Mike Cooper, author of The Downside

“Col. Hadfield’s bona fides are unimpeachable—but it’s his inventive action sequences and keen eye for illuminating details that propel The Apollo Murders ever skyward. Brace yourself, because with Hadfield at the stick, you’re in for a stellar thrill ride that’ll leave you breathless.” —Chris Holm, author of The Killing Kind
The Apollo Murders is as dizzying and exhilarating as a journey into orbit. You can tell from the care and attention to every layer of detail that it’s written by the kind of highly trained, methodical, process-oriented individual almost genetically predisposed to become first a military test pilot and then an ice-for-blood spacefarer. Yet it’s in the parts that could have been written from life where the book is at its most supple, driven and gripping. The Saturn V launch sequence is a remarkable piece of writing, as rich in atmosphere and detail as the account of the Apollo 11 launch in Michael Collins’ memoir Carrying The Fire.” —The Quietus (U.K.) 

“Former astronaut Chris Hadfield gives us a relentlessly exciting, deeply intriguing insider’s look at the prime years of the Apollo space program, ingeniously weaving together three of the coldest, darkest things in existence—Cold War politics, space and murder. Hadfield also gives us a hero in former test pilot Kaz who is willing to risk both career and life to stop a trail of blood extending from the Earth to the Moon. Nothing short of brilliant!” —Stephen Mack Jones, author of the August Snow thriller series

“Chris Hadfield has deftly combined fact and fiction in a gripping tale of high-stakes treachery. Told against the background of the amazing Apollo space program, this story of Cold War tensions, dark secrets and an ego gone over the edge builds to an explosive and satisfying finale.”  —John Verdon, internationally bestselling author of the Dave Gurney series

“Chris Hadfild is going to take you to the Moon and back.” —The Maine Edge (U.S.)

“An exciting journey into an alternate past.” —Andy Weir, New York Times bestselling author of The Martian and Project Hail Mary

Other titles by Chris Hadfield