And so I finally find a little window in my busy life to write a review – seems like ages but it’s only been a week. Never mind, normal service will hopefully be resumed soon. It’s not that I haven’t been reading, just haven’t found the time to write the reviews. Anyway…
You may remember A Cold Day for Murder, which introduced Kate Shugak, ex-investigator (yeah, right) for the Alaskan DA and, more importantly, her half-husky, half-wolf Mutt. And, more importantly, it is available as a taster for the series in ebook form for absolutely nothing from Amazon. On the strength of the first book, I picked up A Fatal Thaw, the second in the series – also not very expensive, and settled in for a read.
This book centres initially on a charming individual who decides to put his hunting skills to the test by slaughtering a number of Kate’s neighbours. Once his killing spree is over – the first chapter – the truth emerges that one of his victims was, in fact, shot by a different gun. A second killer is loose in the Park and Kate is charged to investigate.
First of all, and I want to make this clear, this book is a great read. Just like the descriptions in all those historical mysteries that I keep banging on about, the sense that you’re reading about a place that it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever visit is enchanting. I can’t see myself heading to the Alaskan wilderness any day soon (but will do one day – I need my Alaskan fridge magnet for my collection) but the book brings it to life vividly, as it does the community that lives there.
It is to Stabenow’s credit that some of the traditions, despite seeming over-the-top, such as the Vietnam remembrance described in this book, still seem completely real. At no point did I ever question what was going on in the Park, I just went along with the ride.
But we’re here to talk about the mystery… hmmm.
[Just bear with me while I think about this a bit]
[Trying to think of how to put this without giving enough information that would spoil it]
[Still trying… ]
[OK, this is going to be verging on the spoiler-y. Sorry]
The murderer makes sense. The whole plot makes sense in a logical sense and a human sense and there is an inevitability about the murderer written throughout the book. Despite your tendency to look elsewhere, there really is only one direction the story can go. So how can you do something to hide the killer?
Introduce a plot element that rules them out of the killing and then never explaining it when they are revealed as the killer. I presume on re-reading various bits that it’s simply a presumption that is stated, rather than a fact, which sets up this alibi, but it’s not presented as such. And this is, I think, the biggest cheat in any of the books that I’ve reviewed in the last year and a half. Now if someone wants to correct me, feel free, but I re-read chunks of the latter part of the book looking for an explanation, but couldn’t find one. I’ll happily admit that at times I’ll doze off when reading a book only to wake up twenty pages later…
…but if I didn’t, then I’m sorry, but I can’t recommend this book as the sort of mystery that I like. Everything else – and I mean everything – about the book is great, and because of that, I’ll give the third book, Dead In The Water, a try at some point. So if you’re into character and setting, give this one a try. But if you’re a hard-core mystery nut, you might like to look elsewhere.