Darkness at the Stroke of Noon


Author: Dennis Richard Murphy

Published: 2009

Genre: Thriller

About Darkness at the Stroke of Noon: Two researchers are found dead in a remote part of Nunavut and RCMP Sergeant Booker Kennison is sent to investigate.

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Review of Darkness at the Stroke of Noon

RCMP Sergeant Booker Kennison, exiled to Yellowknife from Ottawa, is sent to Victory Point on King William Island in Nunavut to investigate two deaths. Former FBI agent Ruby Cruz is on her way to the same spot, sent by her employers to bring Dr. Karl Kneisser home.

What neither realizes is that they will soon be entangled not only in murder but in an international conflict that is potentially worth billions, all because of a journal kept by a member of the doomed Franklin Expedition of 1845.

Turning pages without pausing to decode words or meanings, he sees the long and ornamental entries reduced to shorter accounts towards the end—lunges rather than sentences, single words, odd abbreviations, with poorly formed characters. He arrives finally at a blank page, brittle brown at the extreme edges, fading inwardly through a pale yolk halo to cream in the centre near the hand-sewn binding. Carefully pulling the reluctant leaf away from the one before it, he stares at the final entry. Pokes of pencil lead pierce the page. There is madness about the few words, the frustration of an incomplete life.

He feels hot. Gulping air like a tank fish, exhaling slowly through whistle-pursed lips, he watches the thin stream of his breath splay in the freezing air. The beads of sweat on his brow cool quickly and his thick eyebrows grow hard with frost.

"Jesus," he says again, his freezing fingers resting gently on the final page as if feeling for its pulse. "It's the holy fuckin' grail."

...from page 4

The story took place in November in Nunavut so the weather and the minimal daylight played huge roles, as did the stark landscape. All were used appropriately and effectively. The excerpts from the journal were also used effectively, and although the journal was fiction, it was peppered with enough facts to make it entirely believable. The increasing despair, illness, and fear of the ship's librarian (the author of the journal) came through clearly.

Kennison and Cruz were given fairly extensive backstories and while I didn't instantly love either of them, they were complicated and interesting and I understood where they were coming from. Most of the minor characters were one-dimensional but I particularly liked Lillian Ooqlooq and her sensible behaviour, and Dr. Giles and her amusing discussions with her assistant over the autopsy table.

Speaking of amusing, Murphy occasionally poked fun at us as Canadians in a way that made me smile but sometimes the humour was at the expense of Americans or, more specifically, the perceived ignorance of Americans, and I could have lived without that.

Overall, it was an entertaining book with a tense, if slightly odd, climax. It's a shame that Murphy died shortly after completing this, his first book, (and before its publication) because I would have loved to read more.

Also, HarperCollins has created a radio drama of excerpts from the book. It's worth a listen.

Reviewed by Lynn Bornath on 29 March 2009 from a copy provided by HarperCollins Canada.

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More Reviews

Lauren, Ace and Hoser Blook, 3 March 2009
“The plot, however, deserves some criticism.”
Marie, Daisy's Book Journal, 10 March 2009
“This Canadian thriller offers sensational non-stop action.”
Luanne, A Bookworm's World, 11 March 2009
“...an action packed page turner.”
Heather, Books and Quilts, 4 April 2009
“This book should have a wide appeal to people who read history, politics, love adventure, police stories and even a bit of romance was thrown in.”
John Mutford, The Book Mine Set, 9 June 2009
“If you're in the mood for crime fiction with an interesting angle, I'd recommend it.”


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Added 30 March 2009.
Updated 25 August 2013.