A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow

A Cold Day for Murder

Book Review:  A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow

Winter in Alaska is brutal.  When a young ranger disappears, most assume that he was too inexperienced for this remote part of the world, he froze to death somewhere in the park, and his body will be discovered in the spring.  His Congressman father isn’t willing to accept that and pulls some strings to have an investigator look into the disappearance.  And the investigator disappears as well.

Enter Kate Shugak.  At one time, she was the star investigator of the Anchorage District Attorney’s Office.  She’s been in self-imposed exile for over a year, haunted by her last case.  With two people missing in the Park she grew up in, one of whom she knows, she’s pulled out of her exile.

Stabenow excels at setting:  the dangerous beauty of the wilderness, the sometimes ugly imprint of man’s determination to live in such harsh conditions, the liveliness of Bernie’s Roadhouse.  Stabenow also seamlessly weaves the conflict between the Aleutian traditional way of life and modern America into the story.

The characterization wasn’t as seamless for me.  Kate’s anger toward Jack — and her quick relinquishment of it — felt forced.  The narration also jumped a couple of times, pulling me out of the story.  My biggest complaint though is that Kate tells Jack and Bobby that she’s figured what happened and she shares the details with them — but makes the reader wait a few pages.  This annoyed me.

That said, the mystery itself was well-plotted.  The biggest clues were fairly obvious, although I missed one of them.  The suspense comes from knowing that while the Park is vast in size, it’s small in population — it’s impossible to hope that the person Kate is looking for is not someone she’s close to.

While I found the first book in the Kate Shugak series interesting, I’m not sure if I will continue.  Shugak’s world is harsher than I typically like to visit but . . . maybe.  Someday.

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