In Darkness at the Stroke of Noon, Booker Kennison, of the RCMP, is sent to the Canadian Arctic to investigate the death of two people killed in a fire. One of the dead is Dr. Kneisser who had been excavating a archaeological site containing the remains of those from the 19th-century Franklin Expedition. He found a journal that could create dire consequences for both the Inuit people and for Canada as a whole. Shortly after Kennison arrives he discovered that Kneisser has been murdered and not killed in a fire as originally thought. Because the location is so isolated, the suspects are few, but that doesn't mean it's going to be easy for Kennison. The cold and the darkness are the least of his problems as he tries to conduct interviews and collect clues.
This Canadian thriller offers sensational non-stop action. It takes place over just a few days and it's hard to believe that so much happened in that time period. Even one of the characters makes a remark regarding this towards the end of the book. There was so much action and intrigue I didn't want to put down the book. I couldn't wait to find out if some of the speculation was true.
The story and excerpts from the 19th-century journal are presented alternatively. I was impressed by Murphy's ability to write in two very distinct voices; one for the current story and one for the sailor's journal. His writing is exceptional. It's clear, concise and easy to read. I was mesmerized by excerpts of the journal. It felt like I was reading a part of history. The sailor's recollections were interesting, heartbreaking and hmmm....let's say not for the squeamish. Just thinking about it gives me shivers.
There were lots of great characters, but my favourite was Lillian, the Inuit cook. She doesn't just have a huge role in the beginning, but her skills become invaluable to Kennison when he needed someone on his side. She was a woman of few words and helped even though she was grieving. By the end of the book, she stole my heart.
I bet the Canadian Arctic is a fascinating place. While it might be a great place to visit, I don't think I could ever live up there. The landscape features two elements I dislike the most: extreme cold and darkness (for part of the year anyway). The story contained lots of information about the region and the Inuit, most of which was new to me. I had never heard of the Turqavik, a rebel Inuit group. Very interesting.
Highly recommended. I was disappointed to learn that Mr. Murphy passed away in 2008 shortly after finishing this book.
Want to know more about this book? Head over to HarperCollins. They have also created an interesting radio drama to promote the book. It's on the book synopsis page. It's worth a listen.