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The second in McGrath's Edie Kiglatuk series is a dark read indeed, but a winner
on 7 January 2013
The follow-up to Melanie McGrath's High Arctic-set White Heat is even more assured, building on and adding considerably more depth to the brilliantly conceived Edie Kiglatuk, a recovering alcoholic Inuit, sometime-teacher, sometime-unofficial (and frankly unwitting) crime investigator.
TBITS is set in Alaska, far to the south of Edie's home on Ellesmere Island. A character in White Heat pointed out that Alaska is closer latitudinally to California than it is to Edie's home, and from the get-go there's a sense that Edie, who is here to support her ex on the 1000+ mile Iditarod dog sled race, is deeply out of place, and, indeed, longing to be home.
But that's not to be, for within pages of the book's opening Edie is embroiled in a mystery which becomes only deeper the more she probes it, and which will eventually place her and her closest friends in the greatest personal danger. Russian Orthodox dissenter (and just possibly Satanist) cults, people traffickers, corrupt local politicians, Evangelical Christian cops, child prostitutes... all make their appearance in a tale which gets darker at each turn of the page.
Two things in particular contribute to the book's success. Firstly, McGrath's research is impeccable, and very, very deep; the result is a sense of place, and of society, that's utterly believable. From the description of the conditions faced by the Iditarod's mushers to the deeply disturbing depiction of Alaskan politics and business practice, everything feels utterly authentic.
And secondly, not only has McGrath created a great character in Edie, Edie's friendship with Ellesmere Island's policeman, Derek Palliser is the precisely the kind of sexually-charged (although Platonic) yet feisty-bordering-on-comabtive relationship which lies at the heart of some of the very best crime fiction.
I personally can't wait for the third volume in the series.