A stunning first novel from the winner of the CWA Debut Dagger 2002 Hidden within a beautiful glacial valley in Canadian maple country is Sugarmilk Falls, an isolated town, proud of its tradition and wary of outsiders. As the north wind shifts softly in the branches and the thick snow of a winter's night sets in, the inhabitants of this close-knit community gather together, induced by a questioning stranger to talk about the sinister events of some twenty years past...The official story is that it all began when Grand'mere Osweken, an Indian shaman, lost the maple forests in a game of craps. The host contends it goes further back, to the arrival of the schoolteacher Marina Grochowska, a newcomer with a tightly guarded past. Or perhaps it really started years before that, when the woodsman Zack Guillem discovered a curious powdery coating over an area of foliage in the wilderness. But not everyone has attended the gathering. Father Souris refused to go. As gossip turns to fear and fear to blame, the babbling voices of the Sugarmilk sound along the party telephone lines, staking out responsibility for the dark events that have taken hold of their town.
Beautifully crafted and darkly compelling, this is an extraordinary debut that captures the spirit and repression of a blighted community as it slowly turns in on itself.
Ilona Van Mil is a lecturer in law at the University of Essex. This is her first novel.