Author Bernadette Calonego spends much of the year in Gibsons and summer months in Newfoundland. Travelling across the country is not unusual for this journalist and novelist. She was born in Switzerland and writes articles in German about Canadian issues for German and Swiss newspapers. A trip to Canada’s north to give readers a look at life at the Arctic Circle turned into her latest novel, The Stranger on the Ice.
The original was published in German by Edition M in Luxembourg and was recently translated by Gerald Chapple and released in English by Amazon Crossing. It’s a suspenseful thriller that delves into the lives of Canada’s northernmost residents: the Inuit who inhabit the land, the pretty but troubled women who go to Dawson and Inuvik for adventure, the dogs that pull the sleds, and the core of workers who maintain such transportation links as the ice road.
Manager Clem Hardeven is in charge of this fabled road over the ice, the key route to Tuktoyaktuk. As you might expect with a name like Hardeven, the bachelor is considered a catch, though his romantic interests lie with Valerie, a tour guide leader who lives in Gibsons when she’s not shepherding tourists in the north. Valerie is tortured by her past – by not knowing what happened to her mother and father out on the ice when they attempted an arduous journey by dog sled many years ago. She is puzzled by mysterious messages from the unpredictable and promiscuous Sedna who might be linked to the tragic death of a woman out on the frozen road.
Like other of Calonego’s translated books – previously reviewed in Coast Reporter, titled Stormy Cove and Under Dark Waters – the story twists and turns before its surprise conclusion. Calonego has a knack for engaging the reader with a series of believable characters who are not what they seem to be. The details of cultural life in the north include some of the shamanic traditions of the Inuvialuit and the realistic observations of visitors to this frozen landscape. Be sure to read the author’s note in the final pages of the book for a true life mystery of the north, an explosion in Arctic waters, as yet unexplained by authorities.
The Stranger on the Ice can be ordered through Talewind Books in Sechelt for $22.