The Mad Trapper of Rat River by Dick North

The Mad Trapper of Rat River: A True Story of Canada's Biggest Manhunt
Dick North
with photographs and illustrations
(Lyons Press, Guilford (CT): 2003)

Sections of Parts One and Two originally published in 1972 under the title The Mad Trapper of Rat River. Sections of Parts Three and Four originally published in 1989 under the title Trackdown.

READ: May 2006

I was sent this as a Christmas/birthday present from my brother and sister-in-law in Vancouver. They'd picked it up (assumedly) on their northern travels to Yukon that they'd done earlier in 2005. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical at first, but after the first few pages, I was hooked.

No one was sure where the mad trapper came from. He'd shown up in a town in the Northwest Territories in 1931 or so, and most knew him as one Albert Johnson. But they didn't know where he came from, and he wasn't fond of making friends. After a run-in with the RCMP which left one member dead, Johnson led the police on a 5-week chase through the backwoods and snow of the NWT and the Yukon.

The author, Dick North, is a northern journalist who has had a lifelong interest in the mystery of Albert Johnson. He details the manhunt as if he were there, and then he proceeds on a long exploration of who Johnson was. He goes through many possible suspects, and details why each one does or does not match up with what was known about Johnson. It ought to be boring, it ought to be tedious, but it is not. It is quite a remarkable story, and I recommend it to all you Canadiana junkies out there.

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