M. J. McGrath's debut novel, "White Heat," earned both fans and favorable comparisons to bestselling Scandinavian thrillers such as "Smilla's Sense of Snow" and the Kurt Wallander series. Read more...
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M. J. McGrath's debut novel, "White Heat," earned both fans and favorable comparisons to bestselling Scandinavian thrillers such as "Smilla's Sense of Snow" and the Kurt Wallander series.
In M. J. McGrath's compelling follow-up to "White Heat, "Edie Kiglatuk, the half-Inuit and half-outsider heroine, prepares to help her ex-husband, Sammy, in his bid to win Alaska's world-famous Iditarod. But the race turns grim when she stumbles upon body of an infant--its tiny corpse covered in mysterious ceremonial markings--on land belonging to the Old Believers, an exiled Russian Orthodox sect.
Meanwhile, it's election time and the lead candidate for governor of Alaska, Anchorage mayor Chuck Hillingberg, desperately wants to keep Edie's discovery out of the press. As Sammy mushes his team across frozen wilderness, Edie begins an investigation that leads into a murky world of corrupt politics, religious intolerance, greed, and sex trafficking. But just as she begins to get some answers, Edie finds herself threatened by a painful secret from her past.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-09-24
- Reviewer: Staff
The two-week 1,150-mile Iditarod dog sled race from near Wasilla to Nome, Alaska, forms the backdrop for McGrath’s outstanding second mystery featuring half-Caucasian, half-Inuit Edie Kiglatuk (after 2011’s White Heat). A native of Ellesmere Island, Edie comes to Alaska to help her ex-husband, Sammy Inukpuk, who’s trying to regain his self-respect by racing. In the forest outside Wasilla, Edie encounters a mysterious bear that leads her to the frozen body of a baby boy lying in the saddle of a snowmobile. Edie, a homesick, guilt-ridden “outsider in her own world,” seeks to untangle the disturbing truth behind the infant’s death, aided by her policeman friend, Derek Palliser, who’s also assisting Sammy in the race. McGrath has a firm grasp on a little known culture, its values and language, and excels at bringing to life such characters as conniving Anchorage mayor Chuck Hillingberg and his power-hungry wife, Marsha. This affecting novel should melt even the most frozen human hearts. Agent: Kim Witherspoon, Inkwell Management. (Nov.)
Sleuthing in the south of France
Somewhere in the hinterlands, flanked by hard-boiled detective fiction on one side and cloying cozies on the other, exists a brand of mystery offering up the plot devices of, say, an Agatha Christie, but lacking the violence of, say, a Mickey Spillane. The authors eschew the cuteness of talking cats, sleuthing priests or nosy B&B proprietors, crafting instead a canny group of protagonists who survive primarily by their wits. Peter Mayle slots neatly into this category with his latest foray into the world of suspense, The Marseille Caper. Rarely has the tone of a novel been better set with a first sentence: “Shock has a chilling effect, particularly when it takes the form of an unexpected meeting with a man from whom you have recently stolen three million dollars’ worth of wine.” Now, unrepentant insurance investigator/wine thief Sam Levitt faces the daunting proposition of having to work in some unsavory capacity for the very individual he so recently ripped off. Hijinks ensue (big time!), all set against the atmospheric backdrop of Mayle’s beloved Provence. Engaging and entertaining from its opening sentence, The Marseille Caper is do-not-miss fun!
DANGER AND DECEPTION
Imagine a Zen koan-spouting Sam Spade, transported magically across time and space to the modern-day China/North Korea border—a setting easily rivaling Depression-era San Francisco in terms of noir. Then, you will begin to get an idea of what’s in store in James Church’s latest Inspector O adventure, A Drop of Chinese Blood. Until now, O has plied his trade—espionage—in his native North Korea. This time out, O is in a nearby Chinese border town, the guest of his nephew Bing, a minor Chinese functionary deeply embroiled in the politics of the region. The introduction of the beautiful and dangerous Madame Fang into Bing’s life threatens the status quo, and her subsequent abrupt disappearance gives every indication of upending his apple cart completely. Reluctantly, the ostensibly retired Inspector O agrees to intercede on behalf of his hapless nephew—or is he acting in his own interests entirely? The Mysterious East is never mysterious-er than in Church’s novels, and his latest raises a rarely opened window on the inscrutable and hopelessly intertwined relationships of two of Asia’s most closed societies.
Plucky half-Inuit, half-CFA (“comes from away”) Edie Kiglatuk returns to the printed page in M.J. McGrath’s second Arctic thriller, The Boy in the Snow. Far afield from her native Ellesmere Island, Edie is on assignment in Alaska, serving as support staff for a dogsled team running in the fabled Iditarod race. She is a believer in the “old ways,” and when she is confronted by a bear on a remote stretch of snowy road she takes it as an omen; within minutes she stumbles upon the body of a frozen infant, decked out in silken wraps and ensconced in a tiny coffin. She reports her findings to the police, naturally, but early on she gets the distinct impression that the fundamentalist Christian officer assigned to the case would like nothing more than to railroad a certain contentious religious cult member for the crime. Easily the equal of its predecessor (2011’s White Heat), The Boy in the Snow is a tautly plotted, truly satisfying suspense novel. One small caveat: It helps to read these books in order, as there are a number of references to earlier events.
TOP PICK IN MYSTERY
One thing I really look forward to at this gig is killer (so to speak) debut novels. It’s a rare debut indeed that gets named Top Pick in Mystery, but that’s the case with David Mark’s suspenseful police procedural, The Dark Winter. The book offers up an exceptionally unusual premise: A killer seems to be targeting sole survivors of various tragedies, killing them in the way they “should have” died the first time around. A young African genocide escapee is brutally stabbed in her church; an elderly man who survived the sinking of a trawler many years ago is forcibly jettisoned from the deck of a supertanker—and these are but the beginning. Early on, Scottish cop Aector (pronounced like “Hector” with an opening phlegmy cough supplanting the “H”) McAvoy thinks he has uncovered the common thread, but there is precious little hard evidence to support his theory. Meanwhile, events both at home and at the station hint at a distinctly checkered past for our hero, leaving both his superiors and the reader wondering if he has the capability to stand up against such a formidable opponent. English critics have compared David Mark to the likes of Val McDermid and Ian Rankin. My prediction: It will not be long until new voices in the genre are hailed as the “next David Mark.”