It's fishing season, and Kate Shugak is working with Old Sam aboard the fish tender Freya when Cal Meany floats up—dead. His reputation as a womanizer, strike breaker and abusive father ensures that there are several suspects, motives, and quite possibly more than one murderer. While Kate investigates the killing, her aunts mend nets, operate an illegal fish camp and impart cultural wisdom to Jack and his son Johnny. Ultimately, Kate finds herself in grave danger, as even her aunts join the list of suspects.
In this gripping eighth appearance of former Anchorage, Alaska, investigator Kate Shugak, a fisherman is murdered, leaving almost as many suspects as fish in the ocean. Cal Meany was a cheat, a poacher, an abusive husband and father, an adulterer and an opportunist who disdains joining the fishermen's strike against the largest local wholesaler, which has drastically reduced the price it pays for salmon. While helping her relative Old Sam on his tender in the Gulf of Alaska, Kate discovers Meany's body in Alaganik Bay: he's been beaten, stabbed, strangled and drowned. Kate assists state trooper Jim Chopin's investigation. As they validate alibis, suspicions point to Meany's family. After Meany's daughter is murdered and his handyman disappears, Kate's lover, Jack Morgan, and his son, Johnny, visiting from Anchorage, help with her investigation. In a harrowing climax, Kate identifies the murderer and the unusual motive. The background allows Stabenow to examine the predicament of commercial fisherman threatened by fish farms, native subsistence fishing and lucrative sport fishing. As usual, Aleut customs are seamlessly woven into the plot; here, Auntie Joy is suing the government to retain traditional fishing rights. In powerful prose, Stabenow evokes Alaska's rugged physical splendors and the toll taken on the humans who live there.
This book was just as good as the others in the series so far. I picked up the series in an attempt to learn more about Alaskan culture. I just signed with three new clients in Alaska, but it is one state I have not visited. Every book in this series develops characters as rich as the landscape!