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The Boy In The Snow by M.J. McGrath

The Boy In The Snow is M.J. McGrath's follow up to White Heat and the second in the Edie Kiglatuk mystery series.  This book took me a little longer to read.  It sucks you in, but it's not really a 'fast read.'  As with her debut novel, McGrath winds some heavy, complicated themes into this mystery that deal with land development, human trafficking, the sex trade and selling babies (and yes, you did read that last one right).

While in Alaska to support her ex-husband's Iditarod run, Edie stumbles upon the frozen body of an infant boy wrapped up in a silken shroud and hidden in a tiny 'spirit house' under a tree on the edge of Old Believer land.  An interview with the Anchorage Police Department detective in charge of the case makes Edie realizes that the detective has prematurely pegged a couple of Old Believers as the murderers. So Edie decides to do some digging on her own when the forensic evidence she witnessed at the scene doesn't add up to what the police and the newspapers are telling the public.

With her old friend, police sergeant Derek Palliser's disapproving support, Edie continues looking for answers.  Edie comes across references to the Dark Believers, purported to be a satan worshipping off shoot of the Old Believers, that has everyone spooked and on edge and yet there's no evidence to prove their existence.  Edie's investigation reveals possible connections to a developer attempting to develop parts of the Alaska shoreline that the Old Believers own and refuse to sell off.  The sect believes the developer is vindictive enough to frame an Old Believer both in retaliation for broken down negotiations and to pressure the group to sell the land.

Meanwhile, Alaskans are getting ready for a gubernatorial election in which the mayor of Anchorage hopes to unseat the incumbent.  However, rather than get to the bottom of the murder, the mayor is more concerned with quickly pinning the crime on a convenient scapegoat, sweeping it under the rug, and burying it so deep no one will ever dig up the truth.  While the mayor is clearly no prize himself, it's hinted that his wife hides even darker secrets of her own.

When a second frozen infant is found in the same manner and the same forest as the first, Edie realizes that a symbol drawn in oil on both bodies that everyone thinks connects the infants to the Old Believers actually excludes the Old Believers as suspects.   However, the police still believe they have the right man in custody and the mayor is determined that no one goes looking for and finds more frozen dead babies.  Meanwhile, Edie's investigation reveals threads that lead to an ever darker, more twisted, and gruesome tapestry that shields human trafficking and the sex trade in a state with weak laws to combat these crimes.

This is a suspenseful, dark and compelling story suffering the minor annoyances of small gaps in the narrative, underdeveloped plot points and a flat villain.  This is a heartpounding, page turner of a mystery.  Fans of the first book will want to read this one.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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