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It's a crisp, snowless October in The Park. The root cellar is full, the cordwood is stacked, the oil drums are topped-up and there’s a freshly-butchered moose in her cache, but Kate Shugak must leave her cabin and head into the chaos of Anchorage, where the Alaska Federation of Natives’ annual convention is being held. Why? Because board members of the Niniltna Native Association have been dying… board members who just happened to oppose a lucrative new development project. If it’s just a coincidence, perhaps Kate will find nothing, but this is Alaska—politics and profit are constantly at odds with conservation and traditional practices—anyone looking too closely is likely to discover something unsavory.
Mystery matters less than people and place in this sixth adventure for Native Alaskan investigator Kate Shugak (after Play with Fire). Relishing the prospect of a solitary winter at her isolated cabin, Shugak is pressured back to Anchorage by her grandmother, a leader of her Native association. A member of the association board dies mysteriously as the group prepares to vote on a controversial development initiative for tribal hunting and fishing lands. Soon after Shugak agrees to help, another board member suffers a fatal "accident." With the help of her lover, Jack Morgan, a local policeman, and the 140-pound Mutt, her half-Husky, half-Arctic gray wolf, Shugak sorts through tribal politics and a long trail of corruption in battles over land and oil. Sensing that lobbyists and developers have penetrated the Native association, Shugak fears that the truth may hit close to home. Even if Stabenow sometimes lapses into lecture tones to solve the puzzle, Alaska's rough and tumble history fascinates, and Shugak is an eloquent voice for Native Alaskan concerns in changing times. Two contrasting chapters--Shugak's shooting a moose and her reluctant conversion to glamour at Nordstrom's--stand out. Major ad/promo; Mystery Guild alternate.