Death in a cold climate

Many years ago when I got my first Kindle I used to trawl Amazon for free books – there were more available at that time because the subscription service Kindle Unlimited hadn’t been created.. In retrospect this was not a brilliant idea and I read some books which should really have been left unread – if I only have a limited time to read books then I think that I should read books that I enjoy rather than reading inferior novels because they were free. Anyway, all was not lost because one of the books I read was A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow. This was the first of a long series and I have had to pay for the rest of the books but I might not have read them at all had it not been for the free offer.

I am currently rereading this series and have reached the second book A Fatal Thaw. These are a series of crime novels set in Alaska where the main character is Kate Shugak, a native Alaskan, who has been a police investigator but after a difficult case she has returned to live in the rural town where she was born. Occasionally Kate can be persuaded to take on investigation tasks for law enforcement, especially when crimes occur in her own area.

This book starts with a man and a gun. He moves through the landscape on a day when the weather is beginning to thaw shooting at people he sees. Word spreads in the area and eventually he is apprehended. The problem is that one of the dead people was not shot with the sniper’s gun. There has been a second murder. Kate is asked to investigate. To do this she will visit lots of people living in the area and thus share with the reader the ways that people live in rural Alaska.

The murder investigation is interesting enough but what makes this book are the descriptions of the characters who live in the same area as Kate and the lives they live in the adverse climate. There are indigenous people and those who have come to live there later in life for various reasons. They have different ways of making a living and of relating to the landscape. In this book Kate is part of a traditional ceremony with dancing, meets hikers who are trying to climb the local mountains, spends time with a man who runs the local radio station and investigates mass marijuana growing. The daily lives of those who live in the area and their interactions are as interesting as the murder plot. Because Kate is an insider in the community she is able to investigate more easily than someone from outside.

The author knows the communities of Alaska and the landscape very well and obviously loves them, although she is not blind to the problems in the area. She has created a compelling main character in Kate but also in her friends and relations. This is a set of books which I enjoyed reading the first time and am equally enjoying for the second. I recommend them as a crime series set somewhere slightly unusual.

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