The Iditarod dog sled race that traverses much of Alaska is a truly unique sporting event. Each sled is equipped with a large team of racing dogs who must lead the way through 1150 miles of some of the toughest terrain on the planet.
As treacherous as the Iditarod is, it will be far from the most dangerous thing Edie Kiglatuk is about to face. The strong-willed, tough half-Inuit woman has headed south of Ellesmere Island to watch her ex-husband, Sammy, in his bid to win the Iditarod. While setting herself up for a good vantage point, she is compelled to follow a small bear in the woods.
Edie pursues the bear, which leads her to a small clearing in the woods where she comes upon a small hand-painted wooden house (a dog house?). Looking inside the house, Edie is horrified to discover the frozen body of an infant boy. The body is well-wrapped in blankets and bears the sign of an inverted cross on its forehead.
Edie, along with her friend Sergeant Derek Palliser, turn the body into the local authorities. Edie becomes suspicious at how quickly the local police and media seek to brush off this event. She turns even more skeptical when a local group known as the Dark Believers—an offshoot of a Russian Orthodox sect—is made to take the blame for the child’s murder.
What happens as a result of this is one woman’s quest for the truth and justice for a dead infant who has been abandoned with no one to fight for it. Edie quickly forgets the Iditarod and begins to pursue the case of the child called Baby Littlefish. Though no detective, Edie uses her instinct into human nature and natural distrust of the local authorities and government who want this situation to go away neatly. Edie is not prepared for just how far certain powerful people will go to keep this case silent.
The Boy in the Snow shows off the talent and knowledge of author M.J. McGrath. She knows the Alaskan territory well and has written a nonfiction book about the Inuits. The unique setting of the novel and chilling weather conditions call to mind many of the recent glut of Scandinavian thrillers that are set against stark and barren landscapes. The Boy in the Snow also puts me in mind of Peter Hoeg’s classic, Smilla’s Sense of Snow, another novel that combines mystery, social commentary and the loss of innocence through brutality against children. A great winter read.