It's been fourteen months, three days, and seven hours since chief detective Kate Shugak got her throat slit while stopping a man from abusing his young daughter. Sporting an ugly scar and a damaged voice, Kate now lives on her native lands within an unnamed national park in the Alaskan wilderness; her only constant companion is Mutt, who's half-wolf, half-Husky.
Her solitary existence is interrupted one December afternoon when her ex-boss and ex-lover, Jack Morgan, comes up from Anchorage, bringing an FBI agent to her homestead. It seems that a park ranger, Mark Miller, went missing a few weeks earlier. The Anchorage DA's office sent detective Ken Dahl after the ranger, but he, too was never seen again.
Ken's father just so happens to be a congressman, and he's asked the FBI to look for his son. That's where Kate comes in: Having been raised in the park, she's related to half the people in the bush and is on speaking terms with most of the rest, and besides being a top-notch detective, she knows the wilderness. Reluctantly, and for a fee, she begins her investigation into the whereabouts of the two missing people.
Throughout the novel, we are introduced to the Alaskan wilderness, park politics, and the way of life of the Aleut who live on federal lands. Kate's investigation reveals infighting among the tribal leaders and discord between the generations. Kate must weigh her belief in the law and law enforcement against her blood ties with the possible suspects.
A Cold Day for Murder, winner of the 1993 Edgar Award for Best Paperback, is the first in a series. Although the mystery of the missing persons is at the core of the plot, the story spirals outward to encompass much more than the fate of two young men. This works well for a novel, but the general tension and suspense I look for in a mystery was often lacking.
Kate solves the mystery in her head, and we are not let in on the answer until the very end. Perhaps my mind wandered a bit, but I'm not completely sure how she finally realized what happened and who was responsible. However, the setting, the people, and the potential for exciting wilderness adventures will bring me back to Kate Shugak and her Aleut friends and relatives.
Marguerite Gavin read the unabridged audio of this book. She did an excellent job making Kate's raspy, damaged voice come across as believable. The characters were easily distinguished without being dramatized, and I was interested in hearing how the many Aleut place names were supposed to be pronounced.
For maps of the park and more about the series, visit Dana Stabenow's website.
Print published by Penguin Group (USA), 1992
Unabridged audio by Books on Tape, 2005
Challenges: New Author, Support Your Library, Themed Reading, 999, Audiobook, Cozy Mystery, 100+