Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Quick Yet Enjoyable Mystery

A Cold Day for Murder (Kate Shugak Book 1)~~ Dana Stabenow
3 stars

A park ranger goes missing in the interior of Alaska.  Then, the investigator who is sent in search of him also goes missing.  The Anchorage District Attorney's office turns to former investigator Kate Shugak, a woman haunted by her own demons, to search for them.

Overall, A Cold Day for Murder is a quick and enjoyable read.  Stabenow does an especially good job of sketching the main characters, particularly Kate, Jim, and some of Kate's extended family members who turn out  to be involved in the investigation.  Kate is well done as a complex character battling the memories and nightmares of the tragedy of her last investigation for the DA's office.  The character development of several of the characters is probably 4 star, reaching toward 5 star, in quality for Stabenow does a really good job of developing the complexities of those like Kate Shugak, who balance between the two worlds of her Native Alaskan heritage and Outsider (anyone who is not Native Inuit).

While an enjoyable read overall, the star rating falls to three star simply because the plot line is so transparent in places that it is far to easy to foresee what happened to the park ranger and who might have been behind his disappearance far too early in the book.  Despite this transparency, however, the first book of the series was enjoyable enough that I will most likely pick up the next book in the series and give it a shot as well.

I must admit that part of what drew me to this book, and thus to this series, is that I spent part of my childhood in Alaska.  My father was a military man who was stationed in Alaska twice (once before I was born, and once after), so as I was reading, I kept wondering if I would recognize any of the places being described.  While I glimpsed a few, especially Anchorage and Denali National Park, the book made me well aware that there is still much of Alaska that is unknown to me even after having spent a chunk of my childhood there.  Additionally, the book quickly stirred the desire I have long had to go back for an extended visit/vacation.

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