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by Barbara Fradkin
Dundurn, April 2013
400 pages
ISBN: 145970567X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Fradkin's Inspector Green novels always include a healthy serving of his personal life, but in this latest adventure, the ninth in the series, the first half of the book is totally focussed on Green's family and on his personal relationships with the men and women who are part of his work team.

Green's teenaged daughter Hannah is off on a wilderness adventure trip in Nahanni National Park Reserve in Canada's Northwest Territories. When a canoe identified as belonging to her four- person expedition is found abandoned on the rocky shores of the Nahanni River with no apparent traces of the survivors, the local RCMP and Park officials claim that there is not enough evidence to declare the party is missing as yet. They are reluctant to send out searchers when they don't know where to look as the leader of the expedition, Hannah's boyfriend Scott, did not register their travel plans. Frustrated and worried, Green drops everything to go looking for her himself, with the help of his long-time friend, Staff Sergeant Brian Sullivan.

In Fort Simpson, both Constable Tymko and Sergeant Rihls from the RCMP explain exactly why they can't mount a search without further information. The park encompasses 30,000 square kilometres, lots of dangerous rapids along the five hundred kilometres of river and a reported population of six hundred grizzlies. Park officials also confirm that at present only limited search procedures are called for but they do suggest they join Elliott, the experienced pilot and owner of the Nahanni River Adventures outfit, when he invites them to join his flight over the river. The plane touches down near the camp of one of his groups and his seasoned trip leader reports that they didn't spot any of the usual signs used by campers in trouble as their own trip proceeded downstream from where the canoe was found. That night Elliott voices what Green has begun to fear, that it looks like the missing campers do not want to be found.

Green needs more information about Scott as he tries to figure out what might be really motivating his expedition. With the internet help of two other colleagues (he doesn't hesitate to interrupt their honeymoon on Prince Edward Island with his request) and local inquiries made by the sympathetic Sergeant Tymko it seems possible that Scott might be searching for the site of his grandfather's mining claims, rumoured to be rich in rubies.

Finally Green and Sullivan set off with Elliott and Jethro, a seasoned tracker and his dog for their private search expedition. How Green copes with the limitations of his authority to make things happen when he is way out of his jurisdiction and how he suffers from the heavy physical demands of wilderness trekking, white water paddling and mosquitoes takes up a good part of the first half of the novel. On the plus side Fradkin's descriptions of this famous river and National Park help us to understand why so many are drawn to its beauty. We also discover the do's and don'ts and safety precautions to be taken in the wilderness and the search techniques used in searching for missing persons in such vast territories.

The pace of the novel really picks up when the searchers discover where the missing party left the river and headed inland towards a distant mountain. While waiting for Jethro and his dog to determine which way to proceed, Green spots a glint of something in the distance. With the help of binoculars, he identifies it as a twisted body at the base of a cliff. Then the action speeds up as soon a second body is found. Now the authorities are quick to respond, sending in teams to take over the investigation into the two deaths as Green and the others press onward.

There is an interesting twist to the resolution of this complex tale of adventure and crime and loss. Excerpts from old letters provide an admixture of nostalgia for those possible fortunes to be discovered in forgotten claims in the Canadian wilds. In spite of a rather slow beginning, Fradkin provides us with another intriguing Inspector Green mystery far from his usual Ottawa beat.

Ann Pearson is a photographer and retired college Humanities teacher who lives in Montreal

Reviewed by Ann Pearson, May 2013

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