Another fantastic Canadian mystery writer - one I was completely unaware of!
Ruby, recently widowed, wants out of the FBI. She takes a job with the AEI (Arctic Exploration Institute). Her first assignment is to travel to the Victory Point archaeological dig in Nunavut, Canada and accompany one of their scientists, who has made an unbelievable discovery in the Canadian Arctic, back to the U.S. At the same time, RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) Sergeant Booker Kennison, who has been banished to the Yellowknife station for reporting corruption within the Mounties, is sent further north to Victory Point as well. It's supposed to be a routine assignment - document two accidental deaths at the Victory camp due to a fire. But it turns out to be anything but routine. The deaths are murder. And the discovery is unimaginable. It's an intact diary from the lost Franklin expedition, detailing their voyage. The information contained within could impact international borders and land rights.
The story flips between past and present. Murphy has done an amazing job in envisaging a diary of the Franklin expedition. This is a story on it's own. Back to the present - it's bitterly cold, the light is shorter every day, the food is running low and someone in the camp is a murderer.
Darkness at the Stroke of Noon is an action packed page turner. The choice of setting makes it a uniquely Canadian tale, as do the references peppered throughout the book - Tim Hortons and Canadian Tire. I laughed out loud at Ruby's view of Canadians...
"At forty-one, she didn't feel too old for a fight, although fighting Canadians seemed like the punch line of a bad joke. They were just French-speaking wannabe Americans who spent their winters in Florida getting melanoma until they ran home for free operations."
I enjoyed many of the supporting characters, especially the local doctor who acts as a coroner and her assistant. Their dialogue over the autopsy table is blackly humorous.
I finished the book and was hoping that this was to be the first of a series. Reading the back flyleaf I was saddened to find that Dennis Richard Murphy passed away just before publiction of Darkness at the Stroke of Noon.
Publisher Harper Collins Canada has produced a short radio drama with a view into Sergeant Kennison's world. You can listen to it here. Or read the first chapter here.