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Wednesday 12 June 2013

‘The Boy in the Snow’ by M J McGrath

Published by Mantle,
28th February 2013.
ISBN: 978-0-330-51776-8

If you think you've had a harsh winter here in the UK, try living in the High Arctic or in northern Alaska.  That's where most of the action of this second novel by M. J.McGrath takes place.  The author has meticulously brought to life not only the frozen landscapes, the sheer lack of any comfort, the trudging effort of walking for even a few yards that living in such low temperatures involves, but also more domestic local details such as blood soup or reindeer chilli.  Edie Kiglatuk, our little investigating heroine, doesn't do vegetables, just meat!

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
M J McGrath was born in Romford, Essex. We moved a lot during my childhood, 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. I 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, I won a place at Oxford to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics, imagining this combination would give me a grounding in ‘real life.’ Ha!  After graduation, I worked in book publishing, turning to writing at first part-time then full time in my late twenties. Looking back, I wish I’d had the guts to do that when I first came out of university. I always knew I wanted to write but didn’t think that Essex girls who knew how to prove they weren’t bats, and not much else, really stood a chance. Although I am now a full time writer, I have enjoyed teaching creative writing at Roehampton University in London, at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in the USA and at The Arvon Foundation. After spells living in Las Vegas, Nevada and Nicaragua, I am for the time being settled in London and on the Kent coast.

Susan Moody was born in Oxford is the principal nom de plume  of Susan Elizabeth Donaldson, née Horwood, a British novelist best known for her suspense novels. She is a former Chairman of the Crime Writer's Association, served as World President of the International Association of Crime Writers, and was elected to the prestigious Detection Club. Susan Moody has given numerous courses on writing crime fiction and continues to teach creative writing in England, France, Australia, the USA and Denmark.  In addition to her many stand alone books, Susan has written two series, on featuring PI Penny Wanawake (seven books) and a series of six books featuring bridge player Cassie Swan.

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