A Cold Day For Murder, by Dana Stabenow

>> Thursday, April 21, 2005

A Cold Day For Murder, by Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak series

Detective Kate Shugak became the top investigator for the Anchorage District Attorney's Office. But after getting her throat cut while apprehending a child abuser, she has retired to the Park, 20 million acres of Alaskan wilderness, snow and eccentrics--yet the children's cries keep reverberating in her head. When a park ranger--a congressman's son--disappears, as does the investigator sent after him, the FBI and Shugak's old boss ask for her help.
A Cold Day For Murder has a fascinating protagonist, lots of local colour and intriguing secondary characters. The mystery itself isn't particularly good, but the good stuff made it a worthwhile read. A B.

Being the first book in the series, ACDFM introduces us to Kate Shugak and her life, and it does an excellent job of doing it. Kate's an interesting character, and Stabenow draws her with just enough detail to make her come alive, while leaving plenty of depth unplumbed, ready to be explored in the following books. What I saw here was tantalizing, a very well done tortured character, with good reasons to be tortured. And there's even a bit of possible romance in the air, which I always like.

The other great thing about the book is how it makes Alaska (at least, the area where Kate lives) come alive, too. It's not an idyllic place and the way of life of the people who live there isn't idyllic, either, but it makes for damn good reading. Stabenow shows us the beauty of it and also the violence, darkness but also humour and characters who aren't all black or white.

The mystery was less engaging. I saw it mostly as an excuse to travel around the Park and show us who Kate is and how she relates to her community. I think the reason I wasn't as interested in the solution was that the two missing men were probably the only two secondary characters who remained flat, especially the Park ranger who was Kate's lover. I'd have expected to have him a bit more fleshed out, but by the end of the book, all we knew about him was that he had a Boston accent and Kate had shown him around the Park. Period.

Also, the solution to the mystery wasn't of the type that has you nodding because you really should have suspected it. It comes a bit out of the blue and isn't terribly believable.

Still, I was too entertained by the rest of what was going on to be too bothered by this.

A big thank you to Susan K. for sending me this one. I don't think it's a book I'd have picked up otherwise, and it was a really good read.


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