Many Canuks (including yours truly) loathe winter’s darkness, but this novel thrives on it. In this genre-bending tale, the almost twenty-four-hour darkness of a remote Arctic island becomes a character in itself, affecting the plot and creating a stark yet enchanting mood.
First, as a cozy, the plot’s catalyst is a sort of village murder, but the “village” is an isolated archaeological dig site, peopled by a small group of scientists, students, and support staff. Second, as a classic puzzle mystery, the novel has enough suspects, possible motives, and confusing details to satisfy fans of the play-fair detective story.
Third, fans of suspense will revel in the multiple and shadowy threats to Booker Kennison, an RCMP sergeant and the main protagonist. Fourth, the story is a thriller in that the archaeological dig’s findings may result in Canada losing ownership of the Northwest Passage and in the Inuit losing their reputation as a peaceful people.
If there are weaknesses, I found that the motive and behaviour of the murderer and the accomplice sometimes strained credibility. Perhaps deeper characterization of them would have helped. Also, the denouement bordered on sentimentality in the character’s thoughts and the dialogue. But any blemishes don’t diminish Murphy’s accomplishment in telling a fresh, complex, and politically relevant story of Canadian crime.
Will you be seeing sergeant Booker Kennison again, in a series? Unfortunately not, because Dennis Richard Murphy died in 2008, shortly after finishing the manuscript for this novel. Murphy had a successful career in film and television as a writer, director, and producer of documentaries; he also taught in the field. It’s a shame that his promise as a novelist and the potential for a Booker Kennison series weren’t fully realized before his untimely death.
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