Whit Fraser’s latest book is a work of historical fiction that begins by dropping two RCMP constables into a desolate, isolated Arctic outpost. These are battle hardened Mounties, war veterans, but even with Inuit guides to assist them, they are outmatched by the relentless climate and the wildlife, such as hungry polar bears. On top of that, the duo are faced with two mysterious deaths. Once the guides abandon them, one of the Mounties must learn to overcome the physical and mental challenges imposed by the Arctic to survive.
First up is the story of the men still on the vessel. The smell of the boat, the cramped quarters, and the harsh weather of the sea clearly set the scene for what is to come. This is not a luxury cruise and it’s easy to understand that this is only the first glimpse of the challenges and discomfort they will face.
Then once they get to Arctic outpost on Devon Island there is the snow, ice, weather, and the darkness 24/7, when only daylight was glaring at them for four months. The environment was so well done that it was a character in and of itself. Later when it switched to darkness and cold instead, I felt as drained and oppressed by it as one of the main characters, Will.
Also there was a moment shared between Will and Naudla and where the author allows you to feel joy for them, and but in the back part of my mind I also wondered about the chance their story will end well. The two mysterious, violent deaths kept me wondering and I loved how it came together in the end. I like a book that gives you answers. Also this book was so crafted and immersive that it played out like a movie in my head, so when that happens it’s a good book.
I truly felt the characters were well written and compelling. I was able to appreciate the beauty that they saw and understand their fear. I sympathized with Will’s loneliness brought about by his isolation, and his unanswered questions kept me turning the pages because I also needed those same answers.
Vincent was always on back of my mind, wondering what will he do? Will he kill the others? There were so many uneasy feelings that drew me in that I had to find out. Naturally I kept hoping for good outcome, but suspected things were going to get bad. I was so enraptured that I kept reading until my eyes grew tired and I had to go to bed, where my mind kept me awake by imagining scenarios as to how the story might end.
The plot was not only gripping and exciting, it was easy enough to follow. I truly enjoyed the fresh setting of the Arctic because I hadn’t read a book set there before, and for a bookworm like me a new environment is always welcome and exciting.
I can pinpoint a scene that still stands out for me that sums up why I have admiration for this book. When Will was truly alone and he fought to keep his mental health in check I needed a break too. I never want to feel that alone.
“I have crossed hell frozen over to the cold edge of heaven,” he declared.
And there was a chapter where I honestly thought Will was going to give up on life. So that is how much the book pulled me in.
Ashley’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Book columnist Ashley White is a mother of two and a self-confessed bookworm. She is passing on her love of reading to her children, and is active in local book groups and her community, including through volunteer work at the Port aux Basques Salvation Army. You can email Ashley at firstname.lastname@example.org.