So White Heat may take place in the most far-flung locale of any book I’ve read this year: Ellesmere Island in the Arctic, part of the Nunavut territory of Canada. The main character is Edie Kiglatuk, who is half Inuit, and she is a hunting guide and teacher who investigates the mysterious death of one outsider (a man she led on a hunting expedition) and the apparent suicide of her former stepson Joe. She works by herself for most of the book, in true amateur PI fashion, and part of the time she works with Derek Palliser, a member of the High Arctic Police Service who also happens to be part Inuit.
The setting is key: the people, the society, the outsiders who move or visit Ellesmere Island, the land. McGrath spends a lot of time describing Edie’s travels during the investigation and what measures she takes to survive the cold, and those passages make the setting more accessible to someone like me who’s never been to the Arctic.
I only have minor quibbles with the book, and those are that Edie’s dialogue toward the end feels a bit preachy and that the pacing feels a bit slow in spots. I’m picky about PI novels because I’ve overdosed on them over the last twenty years. I go into a PI novel a bit skeptical that the protagonist can reach the conclusion on her own. That being said, I did enjoy this book a great deal.
Finally, a word on how I chose the novel. It was a pick of the Crime Fiction Book Club organized by Rebecca Bradley that meets via Google Hangout monthly. I encourage you to check it out— and I hope to make the November meeting.