My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is the first Kate Shugak mystery but not the first I’ve read which in a way is a good thing. I know this won an Edgar award but it wasn’t all that interesting. I bought this from the author years ago when she was at a library talk then moved and found it in a box only recently so I’ve read many of Ms. Stabenow’s works since buying this (so if you didn’t find this one to your taste, try another). I had the feeling in this (having forgotten this was #1 and didn’t realize it until I logged in to do this review) that I dropped into the series mid-way. In a way that’s true because we’re seeing Kate at the end of her first career working with the police and before she starts as a consultant.
Kate, an Aleut, had left Anchorage after a domestic violence job had gone wrong, leaving her with a cut throat, ruining her voice. Her off and on lover, Jack (a Fed and a Caucasian) asks for a huge favor, to find two missing men in the wilderness around which she grew up. One is a young park ranger, very gung-ho and possessed of a wealthy statesman father, and the FBI agent sent to find him.
Kate doesn’t agree right away but as she digs into this, she comes into conflict with her grandmother, a powerful elder of the tribe, with her young cousin who wants Kate to help her escape life with their people so she can go to the greener, better educated pastures Anchorage represents to her, with the White miners that want to abuse the park and well just about everyone, including a family member who might be behind the disappearances.
As always with a mystery with Native characters, there is an unrelenting hot light shone on the conflicts between the Native peoples and the non-Native outsiders used usually as a reason for the crime (or at least a red herring) and/or the mistrust with law enforcement for the obvious reasons and there is definitely that here.
There is quite a bit of narrative distance between the reader and Kate in this. She comes across as very cold and not really someone I wanted to know better. I wasn’t particularly happy with how this one wrapped up either. It’s a short, decent mystery but definitely not the best in the Kate Shugak series.
View all my reviews