M. J. McGrath: Why I Chose to Set My Edie Kiglatuk Mysteries in the Arctic

M. J. McGrath: Why I Chose to Set My Edie Kiglatuk Mysteries in the Arctic

This is why I write my Edie Kiglatuk series in the Arctic. From the first moment I saw the tundra high above the Arctic Circle I knew I wanted to set a series of crime books there. The better I got to know the Arctic the more I began to view it as a character in itself, as complex and full of contradictions as the people in my stories.

To my mind the Arctic is psychopathic. By that I don’t mean it’s evil, rather that it is charming, gorgeous and wildly seductive but also incredibly dangerous and with absolutely no moral core, a natural born killer. But while it is a violent place, full of lethal pitfalls, it’s also in the process of being killed, by global warming, which makes it both deadly and vulnerable. In the juxtaposition of those two elements is to be found much of the Arctic’s drama and poignancy.

My heroine, Edie Kiglatuk, part Inuit part qalunaat or white, is an expert in the landscape but much less competent at human relationships. She’s a misfit in a place where it’s easy to come a cropper if you don’t fit in. This she shares with fellow investigator, Sergeant Derek Palliser, another ‘mixed dough’ this time Inuit and Cree Indian. Edie and Derek are painfully aware that their most functional relationships are with the Arctic itself.

The kinds of people who are drawn the to Arctic in real life make it ripe territory for crime fiction. It’s a frontier, a Wild North and a last chance saloon, with all the craziness and opportunity for crime that suggests; the kind of place people come to when they’ve run out of other, easier, options. People with secrets. People with dirty pasts. My series reflects the North American Arctic reality: up above the 60th parallel there are roughly as many homicides per capita as Mexico or South Africa. There’s something about that much ice and rock which hardens people’s hearts.

By putting my characters in the extreme setting of the Arctic I’m pushing them to their limits, to that place where they’re forced to confront the deepest and sometimes darkest corners in their souls.

The latest of my Edie Kiglatuk mysteries, The Boneseeker, is set in the twenty-four hour light of the Arctic summer in the little settlement of Kuujuaq. Like many Arctic settlements, Kuujuaq fills up with outsiders during the short summer months; scientists, contractors and shady government operatives, not to mention several hundred soldiers on Arctic maneuvers. Some of the locals find ways to make good money from the incomers, others are left out in the cold. There’s tension in the air. Parents who care move their daughters out of the reaches of the soldiers. No one gets any sleep. People drink too much. The constant light drives everyone a little crazy. The blaze of the Arctic sun can blind you to what’s right in front of your eyes.

When a young woman’s body is found in a marshy sump of greasy water the locals call The Lake of Evil Spirits, alliances crack, promises are broken, old secrets revealed and in the land of the midnight sun no one knows who or what they can trust.


M. J. McGrath’s latest Edie Kiglatuk mystery – The Boneseeker – is out now and is available to order online as a Hardback, Paperback or eBook.

To find out more about M. J. McGrath you can visit her official website at melaniemcgrath.com.