24 April 2009

Review: A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow

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
ISBN-13: 9780425133019
Challenges: New Author, Support Your Library, Themed Reading, 999, Audiobook, Cozy Mystery, 100+
YTD: 32
Rating: B-


Julie P. 4/24/09, 8:23 AM  

This sounds so familiar to me. I wonder if I read it years ago!

bermudaonion 4/24/09, 8:48 AM  

Ooh, I love it when an audio book is so well narrated. I may have to look for this one after I finish my current audio book.

Sandy Nawrot 4/24/09, 9:38 AM  

Pooh, I just checked my library and the only audio they have is on cassettes...does anyone even listen to cassettes anymore? I'm trying to get a few more audios in before I start on the next Outlander book...

Anonymous,  4/24/09, 9:49 AM  

I seem to like most mysteries/romances set in Alaska. Not sure why, but it makes me think I might like this.

And, Sandy, I cannot believe that about your library! It it one of the most used sections at our library! Every library moved all of their cassettes to one library so that you could still request them, but they didn't take up space. What a shame for you. I don't know what I'd do without my audio books!

Beth F 4/24/09, 10:33 AM  

Julie: the book is older, so you may have read it.

Kathy: It's a fast listen (5 or 6 hours) and nicely read.

Sandy: I had to get this through interlibrary loan to get it on CD.

Stacy: I couldn't live without my audio either.

Margot 4/24/09, 12:02 PM  

We fell in love with Alaska when we visited two years ago so this appeals to me. I went to the author's website to find a newspaper story about her and how she writes. Very interesting. Thanks for the link and a new author to check out.

Robin M 4/24/09, 12:04 PM  

This sounds great and makes me want to go right out and buy it NOW! Putting it on my wish list. My stacks are overflowing and promised myself would whittle it down before adding something new. (except for the courtesy copies from publishers - can't resist those.)

Anonymous,  4/24/09, 2:46 PM  

I've seen several references to this series recently, and have been resisting putting it on my to-read list, since I don't REALLY need another series to follow :-).

Later books in the series are available through Audible.com. Netlibrary has some of her books available, but my library doesn't have them :-(. I didn't find the series on Overdrive.

Ah well, it's on my list now. Thank you for the review.

Carrie K. 4/24/09, 11:31 PM  

I listened to this one on audio last year - your review reminded me that I wanted to look up more books in the series.

Ladytink_534 4/25/09, 1:07 AM  

Ouch! Great opening paragraph! Even though it's missing tension this sounds like an interesting read... especially since it's so hot down here it would be nice to be lost in Alaska for awhile :)

caite 4/25/09, 1:34 PM  

Hmmm...I am going to Alaska in a month and I am greatly tempted by a nice Alaskan mystery...

Belle 4/25/09, 6:36 PM  

This looks like a good series. I think I'll keep my eye out for the audiobook version, too.

Beth F 4/26/09, 3:50 AM  

Margot: I was thinking about you when listening because I know how much you like Alaska.

Robin: Thanks!

Imbookingit: Thanks for letting me know about Audible and Netlibrary.

CarrieK: I'll have to come see if you wrote a review. Glad to know you liked it enough to continue the sereis.

Ladytink: Thanks! It's a really cold book.

Caite: I think this one will give you some insight into the state.

Belle: I bet you'd like this.

dog eared copy 1/12/13, 12:20 PM  

SLAM has a little mini-challenge right now involving "snow" and this very well may fit the bill! I haven't experienced Stabenow before but the combination of this having been narrated by Marguerite Gavin and being relatively short makes it appealing. I'l go see if my library has it :-)

dog eared copy 1/12/13, 12:20 PM  

SLAM has a little mini-challenge right now involving "snow" and this very well may fit the bill! I haven't experienced Stabenow before but the combination of this having been narrated by Marguerite Gavin and being relatively short makes it appealing. I'l go see if my library has it :-)

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