Saturday, June 24, 2017

Review of "A Fatal Thaw" by Dana Stabenow

Private Detective Kate Shugak, a former investigator with the district attorney's office, lives on an isolated homestead in Alaska. One morning, not far from Kate's home, a psychotic killer picks up his rifle, strolls through town, and kills everyone he comes in contact with. Kate, warned that the mass murderer is coming her way, manages to capture him with the help of her loyal (and very smart) wolf/husky mix, Mutt.

Examination of the murder victims shows that one of them - beautiful blonde Lisa Getty - was killed with a different rifle, most likely by a different killer. Kate is asked to investigate. She soon learns that Lisa had a dark side: she seduced almost all the men she met (regardless of age or marital status), grew and sold marijuana, poached animals for their valuable parts, and was generally a bad girl. In short, many of the locals - especially wives and girlfriends of cheating men - wanted Lisa gone.

Kate's detective work apparently alarms the killer, who commits more crimes to avoid capture. Meanwhile, we're treated to a peek at the culture of the Alaskan natives, including meals of moose stew, a potlatch (a sort of pot luck assembly with native dancing), mountain climbing on local icy peaks, driving snow machines rather than cars, etc. One can almost feel what it would be like to live in an environment that's frozen for most of the year.

There are plenty of interesting characters, including legless veteran Bobby - who has bad memories of the Vietnam war and a soft spot for Kate; Trooper Jim - whose helicopter patrols give him a good view of things below; Jack - Kate's sometimes boyfriend; Lottie Getty - the victim's awkward sister; Ekaterina - Kate's manipulative grandmother; Bernie - who runs the local pub; and more. My favorite character is the canine Mutt, who helps herself to hidden treats, understands English, has her own opinions (and lets them be known), and is absolutely loyal to Kate.

Kate's investigation leads to a dramatic climax on a mountain, and a satisfying ending. An enjoyable mystery with a fascinating setting.

Rating: 3 stars

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