x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

White Heat by MJ McGrath

Death in the Arctic circle.

Having won both critical acclaim and awards for her earlier non-fiction works - MJ McGrath took the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in 1995 for her first book, Motel Nirvana - she has now set her sights on fiction with the release of White Heat, a thriller set in the frozen wastes in the Arctic Circle.

The book begins with a death. Edie Kiglatuk, a part-time guide to the ice cap for "southerners" (Arctic tourists) and a woman possessed of the kind of complicated background required in this genre - ex-polar bear hunter, recovering alcoholic and devoted but divorced stepmother - takes two weekend hunters up to the icy tundra, only for one to die from a gunshot wound.

The death is subsequently covered up as an accident by the Inuit Eskimo elders, anxious to preserve the steady flow of tourist dollars the local community benefits from. A few days later, Edie is asked to return to the inhospitable north by the surviving member of her previous ill-fated trip. The same thing couldn't happen again, could it? Of course it could. Calamity stalks McGrath's pages like a polar bear tracking its prey.