Darkness At The Stroke Of Noon
1 journaler for this copy...
Combine the mystery of what happened to Sir John Franklin's expedition to find the North West Passage with a Mountie who has been banished to Yellowknife so he won't testify about the shenanigans with the RCMP pension plan and then throw in some Inuit guerrilla fighters and you have a terrific tale. The fact that it occurs in the remote Arctic when the sun has almost disappeared from the sky for six months adds spice to the tale.
A distinguished Arctic archaeologist finds a journal that one of Franklin's seamen kept throughout the voyage. He reports to his funders in Washington who dispatch a new employee, Ruby Cruz, to the Arctic to escort the scientist home with his valuable find. Except, before she gets there the scientist perishes in a fire together with a young female student. Sargeant Booker Kennison is sent from Yellowknife to investigate because the Mountie in the Nunavut town nearest to the site is expecting trouble from some Inuit nationalists. In the faint light Kenniston is able to see that the scientist has a bullet hole in his temple but as he continues to investigate he is shot at himself. An Inuit teenager kills the sniper who has no identifying papers but who posed as an American fisherman. Kenniston stays behind to investigate the circumstances while the three bodies are flown to Yellowknife. He and Cruz eventually cooperate and it's a good thing they do because the Inuit nationalists converge on the site, hoping to obtain the seaman's journal as well.
The harsh but beautiful setting is captured well by Murphy. The low light, the sudden storms, the overwhelming clarity of the stars and the magnificence of the Northern Lights are made real by his descriptions. I thought the inclusion of the Inuit desperadoes was pushing it a bit but it did make for a very tense scene in the penultimate chapter.
Sadly, Dennis Richard Murphy died soon after he wrote this book. I could see a series with Booker Kenniston and perhaps Ruby Cruz cleaning up the northern reaches of Canada. I would have read them.
This is the text of the letter that will be included with the book:
Dear Prime Minister Harper:
You’re probably going to get quite a few books in the mail in the next little while. I belong to an organization called BookCrossing that has a goal to make the whole world a library. Although BookCrossing started in the USA it is truly international and there are quite a few of us in Canada. A few months ago we came up with the idea to copy Yann Martel’s idea of sending you a book since Yann seemed busy promoting his latest book. I am enclosing this letter in the book I have chosen which is Darkness at the Stroke of Noon by Dennis Richard Murphy.
I chose to send you this book because I didn’t see any mysteries in the list of books that Yann has sent you and this is a very good mystery. It is also about as Canadian as you can get. It is set in northern Canada on a small Arctic island that is now part of the territory of Nunavut. A team of archaeologists are on the island to examine bodies of men who were part of Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated expedition to discover the North-West Passage. One archaeologist discovers a journal that may hold information about whether Franklin found the passage. His funders, an American group, are very interested in getting their hands on this journal. See if Franklin did discover the route they figure that means the lands surrounding the passage would be international. Now that climate change has opened up the Arctic waters and made the oil under them accessible if the waters are international then anyone could drill there. They wouldn’t have to get permission from Canada. Before the archaeologist can pass the journal on to his funding group he dies together with a young student. RCMP Sergeant Booker Kennison from Yellowknife is sent to investigate the deaths. Kennison has problems of his own that I won’t detail but I will say that they follow him on this investigation.
I have never been in Canada’s northern territories but I am sure you have. You can perhaps then judge better than me how accurate the descriptions of the people and places are. For me, I felt that I was there close to the North Pole with only a few hours of twilight during the days in November when this book takes place. It would be an eerie, unsettling, otherworldly place I think. But I believe it is a unique place that should be preserved. We know how devastating the BP oil rig disaster has been to the marine life and birds of Louisiana. Just think how much damage a similar disaster could do in the Arctic Ocean. This book is fiction but fiction can teach us and what I took away from this book is how much the North defines us as Canadians.
The author, Dennis Richard Murphy, only wrote this one novel. He died on June 15, 2008 shortly after he completed this book. I think it’s a shame that he won’t be writing a series with Booker Kennison tracking down criminals and righting wrongs in northern Canada. Booker is a great character and I’m sure he could have had lots of adventures. We need more writing about all parts of Canada, but especially the North which is unknown territory for lots of us.
I hope you will read this book and that you enjoy it. When you are finished, please log on to www.bookcrossing.com and, using the BCID that is on the label at the front of the book, write an entry about your thoughts on the book. Then, in the true spirit of BookCrossing please pass it along to someone else so that they may experience it.