This book is not written BY a Canadian, and does not take place IN Canada, but is about Inuits from the Arctic Circle in far northern Canada. This book may not make you want to travel to its main locale, Alaska, but it just may make you yearn to visit the Inuit settlement on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic, in search of Edie.
Book: The Boy in the Snow, An Edie Kiglatuk Mystery (NEW in paperback and e-book, October, 2013) by M. J. McGrath
As I read this book, the last part* of a poem called Fire and Ice by Robert Frost kept running through my head:
…I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
The Boy in the Snow: An Edie Kiglatuk Mystery is so firmly dependent on its setting and the culture of its main characters, that you might say it is frozen in place. (Ouch! Terrible pun.) The setting is Alaska, where Edie Kiglatuk has gone to help her ex-husband who is running the Iditarod (the unique dog-sled marathon). Edie, her husband, and a policeman/game warden sidekick come from Ellesmere Island in the Arctic Circle. They are Inuit. Edie is only half Inuit (her friends joke that she wears her wristwatch on the other half) but culturally, the ways of the “Outside” mystify her as much as she mystifies the outsiders. She tries to explain herself to an Alaskan policeman early in the book.
“Listen detective, I was born in Autisaq on Ellesmere Island. Seventy people live in Autisaq…I watch TV, I teach at the school, but your world, this world, is hot and crowded and noisy and you eat stuff that doesn’t even resemble food…“
Writer M.J. McGrath does for the Inuit (Eskimos to us outsiders) what Tony Hillerman did for Navajos. I was hoping her website would give me more insight into how a non-fiction writer (by the name of Melanie McGrath) from England becomes expert enough on the Inuit to write a whole detective series. I did learn that she wrote a book about the transport of a people from Hudson Bay to Ellesmere Island. She has an old post in her moribund blog about the high rate of homicide in the Arctic Circle. Finally I got a little insight with this CBS interview, from soon after her first book, White Heat, was published.
The sun appeared briefly, and it was bitter cold, the kind of hard crisp freeze you could do business with. Heading east on the sea ice with the land spread low and rocky to her left, the great expanse of Norton Sound to the right, she felt more at home than she had since she’d arrived in Alaska.
Edie Kiglatuk is certainly the most original amateur detective I’ve every come across, and I highly recommend it for its peek at a culture we generally don’t learn about. The Boy in the Snow is the 2nd in the series. McGrath’s first, White Heat, was highly praised.