While most of the time Matteesie searches while in an airplane or on a snowmobile he goes back to the old ways on this search. It is a return to an earlier era when travel by dogsled was the only effective means of ground transportation in the Arctic.
It is done a classically understated Canadian way rather than the over the top American Hollywood like chase of Sheriff Walt Longmire in Hell is Empty. Longmire goes forward alone and on foot through the mountains in a way that stretches belief.
It is not to say there are not real life epic journeys in the Arctic. In Sledge Patrol by David Howarth there is recounted the 230 mile winter journey in Greenland on foot of Danish officer, Ib Poulsen. Remarkably he set off with neither winter boots nor supplies. He wrapped his feet in sacking to provide some protection. Poulsen survived by managing to reach supply huts set up for travelers needing assistance.
The journeys in the Arctic are beyond the personal experience of most readers. The vast majority of the world’s population does not experience travel in -40 weather (It does not matter which temperature scale is used. Both Fahrenheit and Celsius are the same at -40.)
In the Australian mysteries of Arthur Upfield there are often great trips made in the outback. Several involve aborigines walking great distances with little food and less water.
In Wilbur Smith’s book, The Burning Shore, French aristocrat, Centaine de Thiry, undertakes a dramatic trip across the Kalahari Desert with a family of bushmen. It is the best part of the book.
Matteesie’s dogsled trip also recalls great stories of my youth when RCMP officers routinely undertook long dogsled journeys to accomplish their duties.
There was always danger. In 1911 a RCMP patrol of four officers became lost. Unable to find their way they perished before a relief patrol could find them.
What makes Matteesie’s journey unique are the trio on the trip. Matteesie is an Inuk as well as a police officer. George “No Legs” Manicoche is a disabled Metis. Edie McDonald is a white woman teacher. Surprising for that era it is her sled and dog team and she is the driver. Twenty-five years ago putting a disabled man and a woman in the group heading into the bush was equally rare in real life and fiction.
There are reasons for using the dogsled rather than snowmobiles for the search but they are best left for a reader to discover in the book.
I do appreciate chases in the empty spaces of the world that do not rely on planes, cars, snowmobiles and other motor driven means of travel. They force the participants of those journeys to rely on themselves and their ability to adapt to the land and weather rather than rely on modern technologies. I admit there is also an element of romance for me in these trips becoming quests.