The Crime Writers’ Association

Gold Dagger 2011


M.J. McGrath

White Heat

Published by: Mantle

Synopsis: A hypnotic detective adventure story set in the mysterious Arctic. Nothing on the tundra rotted … The whole history of human settlement lay exposed there, under that big northern sky. There was nowhere here for bones to hide. On Craig Island, a vast landscape of ice north of the Arctic Circle, three travellers are hunting duck. Among them is expert Inuit hunter and guide, Edie Kiglatuk; a woman born of this harsh, beautiful terrain. The two men are tourists, experiencing Arctic life in the raw, but when one of the men is shot dead in mysterious circumstances, the local Council of Elders in the tiny settlement of Autisaq is keen to dismiss it as an accident.

Then two adventurers arrive in Autisaq hoping to search for the remains of the legendary Victorian explorer Sir James Fairfax. The men hire Edie – whose ancestor Welatok guided Fairfax – along with Edie’s stepson Joe, and two parties set off in different directions. Four days later, Joe returns to Autisaq frostbitten …

Judges’ comments: An Inuit hunter and guide is drawn into the role of investigator when a tourist is shot dead; then her stepson’s expedition party, in search of the remains of a legendary Arctic explorer, goes badly wrong. In this beautiful, frozen, and harsh terrain, the meanings of life and death, and crime and punishment, are negotiated in relation to Inuit culture; tensions build when Inuit ways clash with the expectations of tourists and visitors.

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