It’s 1910. In a cabin north of the Arctic Circle, in a place murderously cold and desolate, Sig Andersson is alone ... alone except for the corpse of his father, frozen to death that morning when he fell through the ice on the lake.
The cabin is silent – until there’s a knock at the door.
It’s a stranger, and as his extraordinary story of gold dust and gold lust unwinds, Sig’s thoughts turn more and more to his father’s prized possession, a Colt revolver, hidden in the storeroom.
A revolver just waiting to be used ...
Sig Andersson lives in an isolated cabin near the Arctic Circle with his father (Einar), step-mother (Nadya) and elder sister (Anna). When Einar falls through the ice on his way home one day, it’s Sig who finds his father’s frozen corpse. With the help of Nadya and Anna, Sig brings the body home and volunteers to stay with it while his step-mother and sister go for help in the nearest town, which is several hours away.
Sig’s barely got time to try and come to terms with his father’s death when he hears a knock at the door. He opens it to find a hulking stranger who calls himself Wolff. Wolff wants Einar so that he can settle a score over a decade old – and if he can’t settle it with Einar, he’ll settle it with Sig ...
Fortunately, while Sig may be alone, he is not defenceless. His father’s old Colt pistol is hidden in a place that only he knows. As the tension ratchets up, the question for Sig is whether he can bring himself to use the gun or whether he is able to survive by his wits.
Shortlisted for a number of awards, including the CLIP Carnegie Medal 2010, Marcus Sedgewick’s novel is a tense, historical thriller that centres on a teenage boy’s dilemma as to whether or not to use a gun. Although it’s a short book, it’s a gripping read that moves between Sig’s battle of wits with Wolff in 1910 and his father’s history with Wolff in 1899 Alaska. The cause of the grudge is slow to unfold, but the twist is well worth it.
Sig is an interesting character – torn between his mother’s Christian teachings against violence and his father’s urging him to learn how to shoot an old Colt. His struggle against both himself and the thuggish, broken Wolff is a fascinating battle of wills. Wolff himself remains something of an enigma – not two dimensional per se, but there isn’t a huge amount to go on. His motivation is simple – revenge – and his methods brutal.
All in all it’s a gem of a book, with an excellent sense of place and time and a story that keeps you turning the pages.
A deserved nominee for the CLIP Carnegie Medal 2010, this is a wonderfully tense YA thriller that makes the most of its Arctic location and late 19th/early 20th century setting. Sig is a great character with a very real dilemma and you’ll keep turning the pages to find out what he does. It’s a brilliant book and one that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend reading.
Cross-posted to cool_teen_reads and yalitlovers.