Monday, January 13, 2014

FREE Book and Review: A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow (Kate Shugak #1)

(I downloaded this for free.)

Somewhere in the hinterlands of Alaska, among the millions of sprawling acres that comprise “The Park,” a young National Park Ranger has gone missing. When the detective sent after him also vanishes, the Anchorage DA’s department must turn to their reluctant former investigator, Kate Shugak. Shugak knows The Park because she’s of The Park, an Aleut who left her home village of Niniltna to pursue education, a career, and the righting of wrongs. Kate’s search for the missing men will take her from self-imposed exile back to a life she’d left behind, and face-to-face with people and problems she'd hoped never to confront again.

The first novel in the popular Kate Shugak Series, A Cold Day for Murder established Dana Stabenow as a new voice in Alaskan mystery writing, and earned her an Edgar Award.


What a great mystery!  I'm making up a new subgenre in honor of this book - ice noir.  It's a fascinating mystery set in a cold, unforgiving and beautiful Alaskan park.  Kate Shugak is a young woman haunted by the violence and evil she encountered as a state investigator.  After the last abuser she discovered slit her throat, she quit and returned to her homestead in the Alaskan wilderness.
When we meet Kate, she's living in beautiful isolation.  Coming home to lick her wounds and deal with her memories doesn't guarantee peace, though, and A Cold Day for Murder starts with Kate's former boss and a sadly under-dressed FBI agent snowmobiling to her home to ask her to investigate two disappearances.  Her investigation quickly leads her into the complicated politics of the Aleuts, her powerful and manipulative grandmother, the local townspeople and the Alaskan government.  Lots of people resented the enthusiastic young outsider and park ranger who disappeared first, and sorting through their motivations and alibis stirs up Kate's old life and relationships, and not usually with happy results.
She may be the ultimate insider, as an Aleut and a local with powerful family ties going back generations, but that doesn't ensure a warm welcome and pretty soon someone's taking shots at her.  It's a small town, and Kate realizes that somebody she knows is probably a killer. 

Kate's life has mirrored the land she calls home - unsentimental, unforgiving, and sometimes brutal.  The descriptions of the Alaskan wilderness and way of life were fascinating.  It's cold and remote, and people must depend on themselves and each other. The long cold winters bring boredom, creating a lot of alcoholism and bed-hopping as people just endure and wait.  There's a real sense of melancholy as well, because for all the waiting around these people are doing, the end of winter doesn't really change their lives.  It just provides a brief window of time to make money to get them through the next winter, continuing the cycle.  The book reminded me of  Smilla's Sense of Snow, for the mystery and the stark, unsentimental beauty of the setting.

This book is beautifully written, starkly visual, and a really solid mystery.   Heck, it won the Edgar!

I'm so excited to have discovered Dana Stabenow and her Kate Shugak mysteries (there are 20 in this series alone).

Visit Dana Stabenow's website HERE.

Bad Blood  Restless in the Grave (Kate Shugak Series #19)  Though Not Dead (Kate Shugak Series #18)  A Fatal Thaw (Kate Shugak #2)  Whisper to the Blood (Kate Shugak Series #16)

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