First Published: Oct. 5, 2010
Publisher: Viking Canada
Genre: historical fiction, Canadian North, true crime
The young priest stood on the rough planks of the Hudson's Bay Company dock at Fort Norman feeling the thousand-mile thrum of the Mackenzie River against the haphazard structure of spruce logs, nails, and ropes under his boots.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Penguin Group (Canada).
Reason for Reading: I used to live in Edmonton and the based on a true story aspect had me as soon as I heard about the book.
It took me four days to read 131 pages (my usual reading speed is 100 pgs/day) and while I found the story interesting it was just very slow going for me. I felt like I was traipsing through the snow too. Then I just got uncomfortable with the anti-Christian bias the author put into play that I really didn't want to slog through the rest of the book. Whenever the priest's religious conversion attempts were talked of there was scorn and ridicule implied, while whenever the Eskimo's religious views were mentioned there was awe and wonder by the white NWMP officer of no special religious convictions who was sent to bring the murderers back for trial. Then again it may have been limited to an anti-Catholic bias as when I skipped to the short epilogue at the end it was a brazen gloat that the Anglicans beat the RCs in converting the area and that is where their religious views stand to this day. The whole true story can be found here (scroll to the ***), where it seems justice won out in the end for all concerned, imho, and the non-fiction book at that link looks like it might be a more interesting factual account. Your opinion may vary. Here is the publisher's summary:
Part epic adventure, part romance, and part true-crime thriller, Coppermine is a dramatic, compelling, character-driven story set in 1917 in the extremes of Canada's far north and the boom town of Edmonton.
The story begins when two missionaries disappear in the remote Arctic region known as the Coppermine. North West Mounted Police officer Jack Creed and Angituk, a young Copper Inuit interpreter, are sent on a year-long odyssey to investigate the fate of the lost priests. On the shores of the Arctic Ocean near the mouth of the Coppermine River, they discover their dismembered remains. Two Inuit hunters are tracked and apprehended, and the four begin an arduous journey to Edmonton, to bring the accused to justice.
Instructing the jury to "think like an Eskimo," the defence counsel sets out to prove the Inuit acted in self-defence. They hear how the hunters believed the priests were possessed by demons about to kill them, and how, acting on this belief, they killed the men and ate their livers. The jury finds them not guilty. The hunters become celebrities, a parade is held for them, they visit a movie theatre and an amusement park, and become guests of honour at socialite dinners. They are given new suits, fine cigars, and champagne. But Rome is outraged that the murderers of its martyred priests will go free. As secrets of Jack Creed's past in the trenches of Europe are revealed, Jack tries to save his two friends, and himself.