Boy in the Snow by M. J McGrath.
I came upon this book by pure chance and decided to give it a go despite not having read the first in the series: White Heat. Throwing caution to the wind and rolling those fateful dice, this is my opinion of the words as arranged in the Boy in The Snow.
Set in Alaska this is the second of the series in the Edie Kiglatuk escapades. In a landscape swollen by forests, mountains and a heavy dose of the cold white stuff, the story explodes out sending narrative shrapnel out in many different directions after Edie, lost in an unknown environment, discovers the body of a baby in the snow (hence the title of the book). Romping through politics, sex trafficking, dark cults and the gruelling Iditarod sled competition, there is a lot going on as the full extent of the crime and corruption in this corner of Alaska is pulled into view by the determined Edie.
The setting of Alaska is definitely the most interesting facet of this book, and provides a unique tilt on some of the more trenchant formulas of the crime novel included here; the interest for me was often in the details: the descriptions of the unique diet, hunting and the differences in culture of the Intuits’ and the Qalunaat (people who are not Inuit). The character of Edie is somewhat entertaining as a fish out of water compelled by a strong sense of justice and her energy powers the prose that scoots along pleasingly, keeping the reader captivated throughout.
Ultimately however the book is largely flawed, the writing style is inconsistent and appears to suffer from a lack of editing, the writing sometimes seems childish and impulsive, trying to do too much, I wasn’t expecting a masterpiece but this does distract from the enjoyment of the reader. Edie’s supposed determination sometimes becomes annoying as it is laboured with trite and repetitive descriptions, all the rush and rise of adrenaline, that blunted the effectiveness of emotional involvement. The narrative was also tainted by contrived plotting, a stolen ID that gets you everywhere seemed a little too Scooby Doo. Overall the author set herself too much of a task, her research is impressive but the writing sometimes seems to be demonstrating this rather than serving the story, there’s too much going on and the writing isn’t up to the job.
A quote on the cover mentions a similarity to Scandinavian fiction, but I think this is more of a sales ploy than a real comparison; I have read and am a fan of the Indridason: Reykavik series, this book may have had the snow and the grim criminal activities, but it lacked the atmosphere, subtlety and stylishly bleak humour of the previous Scandinavian crime fiction I have read. That being said it was still a very entertaining read, it’s worth a look just for the landscape and the Inuit mythology alone.
An interesting setting, an energetic prose and fascinating cultural details are somewhat tainted, but not overpowered, by lacklustre writing and an implausible, overly complicated plot.
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