Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Boy in the Snow

by MJ McGrath, Viking Adult, November 2012

This is the second Edie Kiglatuk novel by MJ McGrath.  In this mystery Edie, an Inuit from near the Arctic Circle is in Alaska to support her ex husband Sammy in his Iditarod race.  In a walk in the woods prior to the race, Edie finds a frozen corpse of an infant boy. Who he is, how he died and how he came to be placed in the woods serves as one of two major story lines.  The second story line centers on tourism land development and the cut throat politics that is involved in it.  Edie relentlessly follows the clues related to the infant's death wherever they take her.  An Old Russian Orthodox community comes under suspicion for the child’s death because Edie has reported seeing some members of this community near the spot where she found the boy.  Local prejudices against this reclusive community lead the local police to the Old Believers for their murder suspect. 
The look we get into Inuit culture and customs and descriptions of the landscape of the frozen North are the strong suites of this story.  The author knows this culture and is able to weave into this story many aspects of this fascinating native community.  A scene later in the novel where the characters fight for survival is compelling in its realism.  Unfortunately the mystery and its characters do not hold up through this story.  Edie as the heroine is hard to like; she is somewhat self righteous and lacking in emotion (is Derek a love interest a/o partner -impossible to tell from this story).  The two storylines which finally intersect are improbable at best.  The denouement is way too convenient to accept.  
In my opinion the first novel in this series, White Heat was stronger than this one.  I still think this could be a good mystery series.  Its settings and characters are  unique in a genre where many protagonists are indistinguishable from one another. I think a more focused story with a bit better character development could really improve this series.  Read this one if you love stories of the frozen wilderness, but read White Heat first if you haven’t. 

I read a copy of this novel provided by the publisher.

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