10 June 2011

White Heat

 by Melanie McGrath

Pan Macmillan. Mystery, Crime. Paperback RRP $32.95

Guest Reviewer - Anastasia Gonis

The setting for this fast-paced murder/mystery is the Arctic Circle where nature and the breathtaking frozen landscapes are the pivotal characters. Fearless Edie is a hunter, guide and teacher; a divorced woman doing a man’s job. For this she is ridiculed and marginalized but none-the-less more capable than most of the men of her area whose lives are ruled by manipulative and corrupt elders, alcoholism and boredom. Having grown up in the Inuit settlement, she is as familiar with every rock and rivulet of the tundra as with her life’s breath.
When her beloved stepson Joe dies and his death is ruled as suicide as a way to escape his gambling debts, Edie goes to pieces and back to the bottle she’d kicked two years previously. She absolutely rejects the possibility of suicide by a person who for years had dreamed and saved to make a life in nursing.

When the bones of two missing visitors are discovered and the deaths are again adeptly brushed aside, Edie takes matters into her own hands. She slowly links Joe’s death with the bones unable to stay hidden beneath their shroud of snow. For Edie knows bones. She is a hunter ‘as familiar with the icy ground as with her own skin’. It is this familiarity that results in her discovering the evidence she has been seeking, and claiming the truth denied to her.

The imagery is superb throughout the book. The reader can feel the chill of the wind and hear the sound of the water rushing by within the boundaries of the shrinking Arctic. The dips and rises of every turn are visible as is the sense of isolation in the inaccessible area. The Arctic is projected perfectly through the tense, tight, and precise prose woven by a knowledgeable sense of place, space and time.


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