The Boy in the Snow by M.J. McGrath
I went on an Alaskan cruise for my honeymoon, and instantly fell in love with the beautiful landscape and untouched terrain of the 49th state. Alaska seems to take that firm grip on most people who enter it, and fascinates those who’ve never had the chance to venture north. Novels set in and around Alaska offer a small taste of what it’s like there, and M.J. McGrath’s The Boy in the Snow is a great mystery which uses Alaska as a supporting character in the plot.
Edie Kiglatuk, half-Caucasian, half-Inuit from Ellesmere Island near the North Pole, has come south to Alaska to assist her ex-husband, Sammy, in his attempt to race the Iditarod in honor of his deceased son, Jack. Edie is his contact in Anchorage, while their policeman friend Derek Palliser assists him from race headquarters in Nome.
While the race is unofficially beginning in Anchorage, Edie stumbles upon a small house-like structure in the woods. When she opens it up and removes the contents, she’s shocked to discover a dead baby boy. Even though she doesn’t necessarily agree with the customs and laws of the world she’s found herself in, she gives the information to the police. They are quick to put blame on the Old Believers, an off-shoot of the Russian Orthodox Church who came to Alaska for religious freedom.
Edie isn’t sure she agrees with the police’s findings, since the evidence she saw doesn’t add up to the Old Believer suspect they arrest. Against Derek’s wishes, and her better judgment, she decides to continue looking into the death herself. She soon finds herself in a world full of corrupt politicians, religious fanaticism and intolerance, and sex trafficking.
It’s hard to imagine this novel being set anywhere but Alaska. The mystery and allure of the state plays so well into the conspiracy and murder McGrath has laid out, and the backdrop of the Iditarod gives the story an urgency it might not have had otherwise. Plus, McGrath seems very knowledgeable of the various customs, values, and languages of the area. Even though I tripped over some of the native words, they were used to enhance the story and not just in a “look what language I know” mocking tone.
This is McGrath’s second Edie Kiglatuk mystery (the first being last year’s White Heat), but readers can easily pick this book up without having read the first one; though after enjoying The Boy in the Snow, they may want to read the debut just for enjoyment’s sake. Add this novel to your shelves for your mystery lovers and travel enthusiasts. Both sides will definitely be satisfied.
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