Whiteout, by Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber is the first book I've read that is set in Antarctica (that I remember anyway). I enjoyed the setting, especially being able to compare it to Canada's northern regions. Largely set in the real-life McMurdo Station, which can accommodate more than 1200 researchers, military and support staff, it would certainly be comparable to a mid-sized community in Nunavut. Then, without the Inuit culture it's remarkably different.
The story of Whiteout isn't remarkable; a run of the mill crime story. Carrie Stetko, a U.S. Marshal finds herself investigating a murder at the relatively peaceful bottom of the Earth. Before she's able to crack the case most of her suspects will also be slain and Stetko herself will be attacked and left to die. It's all resolved rather quickly and with the cliched bits about gold smuggling felt like an Eric Wilson book.
But, as mentioned earlier, Whiteout does have the setting going for it, and it's captured wonderfully with Lieber's artwork. While the characters reminded me of Charles Burns or Daniel Clowes' style (which I also enjoy), the biggest achievement here is his use of white space and his kitchen sink approach to illustrate the snow, cold and wind. In his notes at the end he refers to not only using all sizes of brushes and pens, but toothbrushes, razor blades and even finger prints in his experimentation to get the scene just right. The results compliment the setting and the noir story perfectly.
Despite the weak plot, Rucka has created some interesting characters. While the peripheral characters are rather flat, Stetko's hard exterior and emotional baggage bubbling underneath pairs beautifully with that of British Agent, Lily Sharpe, who seems more reserved and self-assured. They have undeniable chemistry and cleverly Rucka toys with it. Apparently there are rumours swirling around Antarctica that Stetko is a lesbian, which are never confirmed nor denied. So, when watching the two women together I felt almost guilty wondering if they'd get together— as if I was one of those gossiping about her behind her back. But then, I could clearly see that they had a connection, so I was kind of rooting for them. One might say that by not revealing Stetko's orientation or by confirming that they finally hooked up*, Rucka has made a bold statement that such matters are irrelevant to the crime at hand.
Except that the crime at hand wasn't any where near as interesting.
*(There has been a sequel, but I haven't read it and don't know if any answers are provided later.)