Edie is a half Inuit ex-polar bear hunter,and has left her home on Ellesmere Island to support her former husband, Sammy, as he makes an attempt at the Iritarod, the world's toughest dog-sled race across more than a thousand miles of freezing Alaskan terrain. She has hardly arrived before she is led to a spirit-house, a tiny painted wooden shrine which contains the frozen body of a dead baby.
This is just the beginning of a series of events which grow ever more complicated as Edi finds herself jousting with sex-traffickers, baby-farming, corrupt and manipulative local politicos, teenage prostitutes, and a mysterious religious cult of dissenters hoping to escape persecution in their Russian homeland.
Then a second frozen baby is found …
McGrath's sense of place is impeccably realised, so much so that I had to turn the central heating up. This is a place where there is little ease and life is hard. And the final scenes where Edie, Sammy and her dearest friend, Derek Palliser, one of only two cops policing Ellesmere Island, are bound together and abandoned on the sea-ice to face driving snow, howling gales, the loss of feeling in limbs and fingers and the frightening prospect of irreversible frostbite.
I haven't read the first in this series, but was so charmed by Edie, whose sense of moral purpose illuminates the book, that I intend to get it immediately.
Reviewer: Susan Moody