A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow Review

A Cold Day for Murder, Dana Stabenow’s impressive first novel in the Kate Shugak series, is an engrossing, multi-layered whodunit that is deeply human. Read my full review.

A Cold Day for Murder Synopsis

Kate Shugak Series #1

Kate Shugak is a native Aleut working as a private investigator in Alaska. She’s five foot tall, carries a scar that runs from ear to ear across her throat, and owns a half-wolf, half-husky dog named Mutt. Resourceful, strong-willed, defiant, Kate is tougher than your average heroine – and she needs to be to survive the worst the Alaskan wilds can throw at her.

Somewhere in twenty million acres of forest and glaciers, a ranger has disappeared: Mark Miller. Missing six weeks. It’s assumed by the Alaskan Parks Department that Miller has been caught in a snowstorm and frozen to death: the typical fate of those who get lost in this vast and desolate terrain. But as a favour to his congressman father, the FBI send in an investigator: Ken Dahl. Last heard from two weeks and two days ago.

Now it’s time to send in a professional. Kate Shugak: light brown eyes, black hair, five foot tall with an angry scar from ear to ear. Last seen yesterday.

Aria & Aries, Head of Zeus (2023)

Genre(s) Mystery & Thrillers

Dana Stabenow | Pub Date Jan 05, 2023 | ISBN 9781804549551 | 240 pages

Book Review

If you are looking for reliably good crime fiction read, then look no further than Dana Stabenow’s A Cold Day for Murder. The book has everything I enjoy in a modern crime fiction yarn; a flawed, cynical detective, a remote setting, and an exhilarating whodunit with suspects galore, all of whom have motives for the crimes at hand. But what makes this book special is the added conflict between the traditional way of life Native Alaskans (in this case Aleut) and the encroachment of contemporary, outside America. Stabenow’s masterful depiction of scene, atmosphere, and mood offers that “feels-like-you-are-there” experience, almost as though you’re riding over every snow covered bump of an abandoned railroad grade on the back of a snowmobile in sub-zero weather following (main character) Kate Shugak’s every move.

In A Cold Day for Murder, Stabenow depicts the characters with nuance and emotion. Even the minor players feel fully fleshed out and real. But none are so vividly depicted as Kate Shugak, a former top investigator for the Anchorage District Attorney’s Office who quit after getting her throat cut while apprehending a child abuser. When a park ranger, the son of a congressman, disappears, along with a district attorney’s office investigator sent to look for him, her old boss, under pressure from the FBI, persuades Shugak to look for them. Besides her skills as an investigator, no one knows the National Park and its 20 million acres of Alaskan wilderness, where the men disappeared better than Kate does. And as an insider related to half of the people living in the bush, she can find out things no outsider ever could.

Dana Stabenow’s writing is electric, her ear for dialogue is pitch perfect and her pacing and sustained tension make for a page-turning read. The setting in the bush of Alaska, a state that has fascinated me since I read Jack London’s Call of the Wild as a child, is the icing on the cake. I highly recommend this one.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley for review purposes.

Book rating: ★★★★

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