Published by Mantle
An ice-cold crime chiller from debut novelist, M.J.McGrath, this little cracker of a book deals with murder and mystery among the frozen wastes of the Arctic Circle – on the island of Craig to be specific.
McGrath has written several non-fiction books prior to this, her first, novel but she clearly knows her stuff when it comes to the Inuit people – research for which no doubt came from one of her non-fiction titles, The Long Exile: A Tale of Inuit Betrayal and Survival in the High Arctic, as Melanie McGrath.
But as dark as the tale gets, there is humour along the way as we follow Edie Kiglatuk, a guide to hunters visiting the area, as she seeks to find out why one of her hunting party was shot, and her character’s passion for all the great black and white slapstick screen heroes plays out on her tv every night – it sure makes a change from a divorcee music loving detective as a central crime novel protagonist.
Throughout the novel, Edie is up against the official line that the authorities and elders take around her; that Wagner (the man shot) was the victim of a hunting accident and nothing more, that another man was lost in a blizzard, and that one of her relatives (not wishing to give anything away) took their own life through a mixture of distress, guilt and confusion caused by hypothermia.
But there’s more to the mystery.
Edie discovers bones – bones of a body cut up into pieces, missing pages of a diary by a famous Victorian explorer in the area, and just why is everyone so interested in a gemstone that just might be a fragment of a meteor?
I did, on a few occasions, worry that the book was about to take a sudden X-Files turn, but am pleased to report that it remains pretty well grounded in human criminal activity and not that of little green men.
White Heat does what great crime books do best, it tells a good story with a great and interesting central character and has a strong secondary character - the landscape of the place in which the story plays out.
Keith B Walters