GREENLAND is on red alert.
Clinging as it is on the outermost rim of the inhabited world, this enormous but sparsely populated island is just about as far removed from the tropical diseases of central Africa as it’s possible to be.
The arrival home of one infected traveller is all it takes to change that, however. Suddenly, with the identification of a critically ill returnee, a tiny islet off the mainland’s east coast is a potential threat to thousands of scattered Greenlanders stretching from far-flung settlements to the capital, Nuuk.
Aid worker Navana – now known officially as “patient zero” – is presenting with all the classic symptoms of a fast-moving virus. The fact she has only recently left a developing area of South Sudan bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo is particularly troubling to the health department.
Responsibility for ensuring residents of Niisarnaq comply with a hastily ordered lockdown rests with Constable David Maratse, a loner in the Greenlandic police force who finds himself on assignment in the minuscule community at exactly the wrong time.
Only hours earlier Maratse’s sole mission had been keeping the peace between two warring neighbours – a fisherman and a hunter – engaged a long-running local feud.
But with no law-enforcement backup available, insufficient protective clothing on hand and only an inexperienced trainee nurse on duty, corralling Niisarnaq’s population and at the same time stabilising Navana until help can be flown in is a nearly insurmountable challenge.
Petersen’s release of the 17th novella in his Arctic Shorts series is a timely gift to readers weathering the coronavirus pandemic in isolation, desperate to find a few hours of relief through a storyline that develops as quickly as its subject matter and in an exotic setting. Virusi’s skilful mirroring of real-world events makes for a perfect few hours of diversionary escapism.