Alaska State Trooper Liam Campbell is all at sea.
He's been demoted and exiled to Newenham, an ice-bound bush town in the middle of nowhere, where he's taken up residence in a leaky old gill-netter on the bay. Newenham is small, but Liam Campbell is quickly finding out that small doesn't guarantee a simple life.
Three months in, Campbell is brooding on how to put down roots on dry land again when a fishing boat is found adrift, burned down to the waterline. Aboard, he discovers seven charred bodies. A terrible accident? Or a cover-up of something worse?
And then a young archaeological assistant is gruesomely murdered at a remote dig site. With eight dead, things are getting out of hand – and Liam is left following a trail of false leads, false confessions, and false hopes.
Stabenow's second Liam Campbell mystery (after Fire and Ice) has the vivid descriptions, rich characterization and compelling plot that distinguish her nine Kate Shugak books, with the added advantage of extra sex appeal. Alaska State Trooper Campbell, stationed in the southwest Alaska boondocks, has a lot on his plate: an eager new trooper, Diana Prince; a visit from his estranged father, an air force colonel on a suspicious mission; the reappearance of his great love, charter pilot Wyanet (Wy) Chouinard; and two very different cases rife with false clues. When an assistant at an important archeological site is murdered, evidence points to Frank Petla, a Yupik grave robber who travels by four-wheeler. Liam apprehends him in a dramatic chase by leaping out of Wy's Cub into a lake, but later comes to believe Frank's profession of innocence. The desperate murderer finally reveals himself, almost killing Wy and her journalist friend Jo. Finding a killer who sets fire to a fishing boat, incinerating all seven people aboard, proves a more difficult task. Initially, Liam suspects a disgruntled former deckhand, but the solution hinges on careful observation and an understanding of Yupik lifestyles and traditions, a necessity for these white cops in a predominantly Native American population. Colorful characters abound, and Stabenow ably evokes the life of hard-pressed commercial fishermen. The mystery ends on a mystical note, integrating Native American belief into a satisfying conclusion.