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Tuesday, 9 October 2012
‘The Boy in the Snow’ by M J McGrath
In this story, Arctic guide Inuit Edie Kiglatuk is away from the Canadian High Arctic and is in Alaska to support her ex-husband Sammy as he sets out on the gruelling 14-day Idatrod dogsled race which takes place annually in early March. But on her way by snowmobile through the Alaskan forest Edie makes a shocking and tragic discovery: the frozen body of a tiny baby boy in a little model house. The local police are anxious - too anxious - to connect the death to the so-called cult of the Dark Believers, an alleged breakaway from the Old Believers who themselves broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church centuries ago and established themselves in North America but have always remained rigidly apart from the communities around them since they believe that modern life is deeply corrupting. But Edie, although urged by her friends to leave the investigation to the authorities and frequently warned by the police not to interfere, is not convinced that the man arrested, who is an Old Believer, is responsible for the death. Her investigations lead her to the links between certain local politicians, currently heavily involved in the election for the Alaskan State Governorship, and the sex trafficking of very young Russian girls and an illegal forced adoption racket.
The context, the icy Arctic weather with its blizzards, is all-important as is the relationship between the Inuit people and the natural and the spirit world. Edie is led to the little boy’s body by a spirit bear, the little house in which the corpse is laid out is a spirit house, of deep significance to the native Athabascans, and she frequently converses with the spirits of the dead.
Reviewer: Radmila May
The author’s first book, White Heat, was long listed for the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger; she has also written a number of non-fiction books
M J McGrath was born in Romford, Essex, the third of four children. Parents, Peter and Margaret, had moved out of East London some time before, looking for a quieter, more spacious life. They thought of themselves as upwardly mobile, which they were. They moved a lot first to Basildon in Essex, then to a village in Germany, from there Kent, then north to Lancashire, south again to Buckinghamshire and so on. Melanie tried pretty much every kind of school, from German kindergarten through catholic convent to bog standard state grammar. After graduating high school with a mixture of arts and science A-levels, she won a place at Oxford to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics. After graduation, Melanie worked in book publishing, turning to writing at first part-time then full time in my late twenties. Now a full time writer, and. after spells living in Las Vegas, Nevada and Nicaragua, Melanie is for the time being settled in London and on the Kent coast.