With a raspy voice caused by an attack that also left a scar running across her neck, Native Alaskan Aleut Kate Shugak investigates the disappearance of two men in A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow. The first, a park ranger with unpopular opinions and an equally unpopular relationship with an Aleut woman, and the second, the investigator assigned to find him.
When we meet Kate for the first time, she is holed up in a remote log cabin that is best reached by snowmobile. Fixtures of homestead life surround her: an outhouse, a food stash high off the ground, tidy stacks of split firewood, and 55-gallon drums of fuel. Her ex-boss and ex-boyfriend Jack shows up with an FBI agent in tow, to drop the news that Kate's lover Ken has gone missing while investigating the disappearance of a park ranger. Feeling responsible, Kate picks up the trail and returns to her tribal village, where she finds a lot of motives for murder but no suspects and no bodies.
An Alaskan resident like her main character, mystery author Dana Stabenow has been writing Kate Shugak novels since 1992. As a former resident of Alaska myself, I decided to give this series a try in my sixth month of reading only mysteries while completing the 10 to Try challenge.
A Cold Day for Murder is a small paperback that transported me to a very large place, where the characters put canned evaporated milk in their coffee and ride snowmobiles and fly small planes to get around when they can't drive. Alaska is not all frozen tundra, as I always have to remind my husband, but no matter the type of Alaskan wilderness it reminds you of your fragile humanity, which is perhaps why many of its residents and fictional characters grow tough exteriors and wear them with pride.
If you're looking for a mystery by a Pacific Northwest author, the Seattle Mystery Bookshop maintains a huge list of Northwest authors that will give you lots of choices.
And here are a few suggestions:
J.A. Jance is the bestselling Seattle author of the J.P. Beaumont mystery series, also set in Seattle. The first Beaumont novel is Until Proven Guilty.
Ridley Pearson lives in Idaho and is the bestselling author of several mystery and suspense series.
If you want to get really grim and twisty, try the true crime novels of Seattle native Ann Rule. Green River Running Red is the story of the Green River killer, who took the lives of 49 young women before he was caught.