Review: White Heat
I like tales of the Arctic and Antarctic, the epic journeys, exploration and stories of survival so it was only natural that I’d be drawn to White Heat. McGrath offers a murder mystery in an isolated community in the Arctic with our protagonist being a woman of strong character.
Edie Kiglatuk is a half-Inuit guide who is leading an expedition when one of the two men with her is shot by an unseen assailant. Edie suspects foul play but she and her step-son Joe bow to the Tribal Council in Autisaq who rule that the incident was self-inflicted. When two men arrive in Autisaq and begin expeditions to find the remains of Sir James Fairfax, one is guided by Joe, who returns alone suffering with frostbite, disorientation and hypothermia. Joe confirms the man he was guiding has gone missing. Something strange is going on in Autisaq and Edie is prompted to conduct her own investigation upon finding her beloved Joe has committed suicide, or has he?
White Heat is clearly a well-researched novel. McGrath has done her homework about the Arctic region, the Inuit people, their customs and traditions. In Edie we have an unorthodox but endearing heroine. A recovering alcoholic, Edie is not without her flaws. She juggles teaching with being a guide, her primary focus being to raise funds for Joe to train to be a nurse. Edie lives alone but often sees her ex Sammy and is somewhat frowned upon by the Elders in the community for her independence and strong will. The death of one man – Felix Wagner – she is guiding leaves Edie suspicious but when Joe has one go missing under his watch and returns home severely ill only to later be found dead from an apparent suicide, Edie is inconsolable. Revelations begin to emerge about Joe in the aftermath of his death but Edie cannot believe what she is hearing.
Edie decides to conduct some investigations of her own, going against the wishes of family, friends and especially the Elders. As Edie begins to dig for clues she uncovers a compelling mystery and conspiracy that goes back many years to her famous great-great-great grandfather who was a renowned Inuit guide and hunter who led an English explorer across the Arctic. Edie is not alone. Police sergeant Derek Palliser is on the case as well but will he or Edie manage to solve the mystery or will it lay forever buried throughout the Arctic?
White Heat is a decent enough mystery thriller. The Arctic itself had the most appeal for me – a beautiful yet deadly expanse that the unprepared soon succumb to. Edie is a memorable heroine. Though she is strong and independent, she is not without her weaknesses. Her former dependence on alcohol is severely tested by the events that unfold, especially Joe’s death. The murder mystery is quite interesting but I wasn’t as gripped by it as I thought I might have been.
White Heat is an intriguing thriller throughout with a great protagonist, a well conveyed Inuit community and the Arctic itself is one of the highlights of the novel. The story is quite good and certainly worth considering if you want a murder mystery that is a little bit different.