Dana Stabenow won an Edgar Award for her books about Kate Shugak, a resourceful Indian woman living in Alaska. The series is full of respect for the landscape and the hard work it takes to survive in the far north. Now she starts a new series starring Liam Campbell, an Alaskan State Trooper with a troubled past and an uncertain future; the environmental issues of the 1980s appear to have been back-burnered in favor of the personal needs and feelings of the 1990s.
You might think there are one too many colorful eccentrics or jaunty drunks in the town of Newenham, where former Sergeant Campbell has been demoted after his own bout with booze and self-doubt. But you'll definitely admire the way Stabenow jumpstarts her story: within a few minutes of his arrival from Anchorage, Campbell has to deal with one murder (a pilot almost decapitated by his propeller), one old girlfriend (the exotic and possibly dangerous Wy Chouinard), and a man held hostage in the town's only decent burger joint--held for shooting out a jukebox that was playing Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville.
Stabenow can also grab your attention with the details of everyday life in an Alaskan fishing village, such as this description of the contents of a light plane: "There was a handful of candy wrappers, two maps of Bristol Bay, five small green glass balls which Liam recognized as Japanese fishing floats, a walrus tusk broken off near the root, a survival kit, two firestarter logs, two parkas, two pairs of boots, a litre-sized plastic Pepsi bottle half full of yellow liquid, a clam gun, a bucket, three mismatched gloves and three handheld radios, which to Liam seemed a bit redundant." The Kate Shugak books include A Cold Day for Murder, Breakup, A Cold-Blooded Business, Blood Will Tell, Dead in the Water, A Fatal Thaw, Killing Grounds, and Play with Fire. --Dick Adler