What impresses me with a good story is not just the plot but the small details that surround the plot which engage me more to read the book. Usually this is a result of an author doing large amounts of research before even writing a word. I recently discovered Barbara Fradkin as a novelist and I suspect that her research skills are immense as I read and enjoyed The Whisper of Legends.
For the tenth time in ten minutes, Ottawa Police Inspector Michael Green abandoned the dreary operations report and sneaked a peek at his BlackBerry. The time was inching toward noon. What time was that in the Yukon? Nine a.m? The start of their business day? Of course, he had no idea what time the owner of Nahanni River Adventures actually came to the office, nor even whether he had an office in the normal sense of the word. But Green figured nine a.m. was a respectable time to phone. It would sound like a reasonable request for an update, which it was, rather than a panicked call for reassurance.
Which it also was.
Hannah had told him very firmly that there were no cellphone towers or Internet signals in the Nahanni National Park Reserve. it was thirty thousand square kilometres of mountains, glaciers, canyons, and waterfalls along a wilderness river so spectacular that it had been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There was no communication, period. Cut off from the the outside world. That’s the point, Dad.
Fradkin has a great writing style. The story deals Inspector Michael Green trying to deal with his missing daughter Hannah. She was on a summer trip deep in a park made up of ‘30,000 square kilometres of wilderness and 600 grizzlies.’ Green finds out that his daughter lied to him about the trip, it was organized by a boyfriend to explore the hinterland of the region, not a local tour group. Green becomes frustrated the lack of effort being done by the authorities to look for his daughter that he and his friend – Staff Sargent Brian Sullivan – travel to park to search for Hannah themselves.
Green slept fitfully, disturbed not so much by the tandem snoring of the other two men nor by the eerie grey of the northern night, but by fragments of dreams lurking at the borders of his consciousness. Images of roiling rapids, plunging waterfalls, sheer cliffs, and endless, desolate mountains. Was Hannah wandering around at the mercy of Scott, and unwitting pawn in some scheme of his? Or had she been party to the devious plot from the start? Lying to her parents about her destination and her purpose? He didn’t know which possibility upset him more. That she was a hapless captive or a witting liar.
How well did Green know her anymore? She’d arrived on his doorstep an angry, untrusting teenager consumed with the need to punish him for his years of neglect. She’d lived a reckless life on the edge. Drugs, men, deception – she’d embraced them all in her quest for love, meaning, or just pure oblivion. Father and daughter had won each other over step by timid step, but all too soon she had slipped from his grasp again, back into that toxic swamp of guilt, narcissism, and manipulation that was her mother’s life. Scott had become her next great fascination, her next great answer to the meaning of it all.
In her eagerness to please Scott, what had she done to herself?
Fradkin also has a fantastic grasp of human fears and relationships. She gets into the minds of the characters here and tells the readers what they are thinking, even though those characters are fearful of sharing their emotions with others.
Green held his tongue. In truth, he was terrified. He knew he was putting the other paddlers at risk as well as himself by insisting on starting at Moose Ponds, but there was no other place on the upper river wide enough to land the float place. The coordinates of the mining claim put the search area near the confluence of the South Nahanni and Little Nahanni, which was just below the terrifying sixty-kilometre stretch of whitewater. To land farther downstream at the next accessible place would be pointless.
Elliot steadied the two canoes and eased them up on the rocky riverbank. He looked thoughtful. “We’ll manage,” he said. “I know every twist and boil in this river, and we have a number of options. We’ll take each stretch slowly. Scout, discuss, plan the route ahead of time. On some of them we can make a canyon rig by lashing two canoes side by side. Other places Brian can solo and I will paddle with Mike. If we need to, we’ll portage or pull the canoes on ropes. We’ll get there.”
The Whispers of Legends by Barbara Fradkin is a detailed and well-researched mystery novel that is a pleasure to read. Not only is the plot engrossing but also very thoughtful. A great read for sure.