A story of love and murder in Canada’s Arctic
This is a beautiful tale that started slowly but evolved into a page-turner as author Whit Fraser turns up the drama surrounding the fictional story of Will Grant and his fellow RCMP comrades. Fraser, a native of Pictou County, was inspired to write the story after a visit to the abandoned RCMP station on Devon Island in the Northwest Territories.
Set in the desolate Arctic in 1924, Will and his fellow officers were tasked with making Canada’s mark of sovereignty over the far north. Readers gain insight into the drastic conditions and challenges of life in Canada’s frozen landscape, and the inevitable clash of cultures between the RCMP and the Inuit in this epically Canadian tale.
His writing style reminded me of the great Farley Mowat. Fraser was able to weave thrills, romance and historical moments throughout this book in a wonderful way that kept me entertained.
With members of the Inuit community hired as guides, Will was eager to adapt, connect and explore. His fellow officers weren’t as excited to embrace the traditional ways of living and quickly showed signs of trouble, distress and aggression.
While Will was the main character, my heart was with Pudlu, one of the guides, and then equally matched with Naudla. Pudlu and Will connected quickly over a game of chess and gained a level of mutual respect. The spark was ignited immediately for Will when he first saw Naudla, though he refrained from acting on it, and tried his best to hide his feelings as Naudla was married with two children. Her entire family — husband, young children and brother, Pudlu — were guides and hunters. Pudlu was the only one who spoke English and acted as translator.
With aspects of religion, touches of humour and some unusual murders to solve, Fraser was able to combine everything into a unique story of adventure and beautiful, while heartbreaking, history. This story includes misadventures too, with avalanches, frostbite and the death of two officers. While the tale is set nearly a century ago, the storms that rage throughout are still relevant today. We can certainly learn a lot of history through fiction and storytelling and Fraser has great skill in writing this style of story.
Fraser has travelled to every corner and most communities from Labrador to Alaska, experiencing the unforgiving but beautiful Canadian north firsthand, including Devon Island. But he always comes back to his home in Pictou. He has an impressive resumé as a journalist, award-winning author and vice-regal consort of Canadian Governor General Mary Simon.
Cozy up by the fire this winter and feel the chill of this noteworthy piece of historical fiction.