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The Bone Seeker

first published 2014 (Fourth Estate)

Excerpt
Pol took the Twin Otter up over the hills just west of the settlement and turned east along the shoreline, coming inland over the bird cliffs. The plane rose over blustering clouds of thick-billed murres and followed the white rush of the great Kuujuaq River. A series of tracks criss-crossed the slump fields, cutting through the sporadic vegetation northwast to the lake on the boundary of the old Glacier Ridge Distant Early Warning Radar Station and on to Camp Nanook. For a while they kept to a course parallel to the shoreline. Near Jakeman Glacier they flew over a silvery cord of narwhal making their way towards Hell Gate. Further ahead a group of walrus hauled out on the beach began scattering for open water. At Derek’s suggestions, Pol switched back and began to head in an arc across the Sound then inland. The plane dropped altitude once again, then rose as the ridge gave out onto low, flat tundra.

Beside him, Derek noticed Edie craning out of the rear window at something he could not see. She was gazing down at a dip in the land that locals called Lake Turngaluk, the Lake of Bad Spirits, though it was mostly dry now, pitted here and there with bowls of pewter-coloured water. Locals said the area was a portal to the underworld and that birds wouldn’t fly over it, but Derek didn’t hold with that, preferring to believe that the birds didn’t bother to visit because what was left of the water was polluted with contaminants from the radar station and thus devoid of fish.

‘How odd,’ Edie pointed out of the side window but all Derek could see were a few thin strings of cirrus. ‘It’s a bear. They’re usually on their way north to the floe edge by now.’

‘You want me to swing back?’ Pol asked Derek.’

The policeman nodded and prepared himself for the stomach lurch. The plane rose higher then banked sharply and wheeled round, retracing their route through a patch of cloud. Coming through into clean air they caught sight of the bear once more. Spooked by the sound of the aircraft engine, it was running for the safety of the sea. But the surface of the pool that the animal had just vacated appeared to be bubbling and seething and as the slipstream from the plane passed across it, the western bank seemed to expand as if it had turned to gas. Derek leaned over Edie to get a better view.

‘What the hell is that?’

She curled around and caught his gaze. There was something wild in the way she was looking at him now, the muscles in her face taut, her black eyes blazing.’

‘Mosquitoes. They’re feeding on whatever attracted the bear.’

Reviews

‘Incredible. The Arctic has never looked so bleak & so treacherous.Powerful and compelling’
A NetGalley top ten books for June pick

‘Filled with cultural tensions, gorgeous Arctic spring scenery, and pulsing suspense.’
Booklist starred review