The first book in the Kate Shugak-mystery series.

Kate Shugak lives with her huge dog Mutt in a cabin in one of the Alaska National Parks near Anchorage. In fact, she was born there and she’s a Native Alaskan, an Aleut. Her parents died when she was young and she was raised by her first cousin through marriage, Abel Int-Hout. She ended up working for the Anchorage D. A.’s office and was one of the best investigators until one suspect, a child-molester, cut her throat. Her vocal cords were damaged and she still has the scar. Her voice is raspy and whispery. She has vivid nightmares about it.

Kate’s former boss and lover, Jack Morgan, brings her a new case: a new Park ranger disappeared six weeks ago. The ranger’s father is a Congressman who sent out the FBI who sent an investigator after the ranger. That investigator happens to be a man Kate trained and was occasional lovers with, and he also disappeared two weeks ago. Reluctantly, Kate agrees to look into it. Pretty much all of the people she interviews are her family or longtime acquaintances; her grandmother Ekatarina who is the tribal matriarch and is doing her best to prevent young people from leaving the Park, her foster father Abel, her cousins Xenia and Martin, the local bartender Bernie, and of course Jack Morgan, who accompanies her. They find out that quite a few people didn’t like the ranger’s plans for the Park.

The story focuses on the people and the setting even though the plot is rather chilling and well-made as well. The people in the park are divided; the older generation wants to preserve their way of life and the younger ones want to be part of the modern world. Kate is an example of this divide. She was able to get an education and move away from the Park, and the family resents her for that. She feels like an outcast from both worlds and chooses to live alone and apart from others. Yet, she gets along with her foster-father and Bernie. There’s also Bobby, who is the local weatherman and is bound to a wheelchair.

Many of the characters have quirky and entertaining personalities. The Alaskan environment is also an added character; the book is set around New Year, and the snow and the cold has to be taken into consideration every time they go out.

Highly entertaining and exciting.

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