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by Dana Stabenow
Minotaur Books, February 2013
273 pages
ISBN: 0312550650

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Kushtaka and Kuskulana are two Alaskan villages founded over 100 years ago where two rivers meet. There has been a bitter rivalry between them ever since, with Kuskulana thriving and Kushtaka dying. The inhabitants of each village act more as enemies than neighbors. Thus, when a Kushtaka teen is murdered, it is immediately assumed that a Kuskulanan is to blame. And when shortly thereafter a Kuskulanan is murdered, it appears to be payback from the other village.

Other deaths occur, and it's up to Sgt. Jim Chopin to sort things out. It's a tough investigation, with both sides withholding evidence; and Jim finds the attitudes of each to be extremely frustrating. He spends a lot of time flying back and forth between his home and the villages and finds himself a target of their animosity. The fact that there's a growing romance between two teens from each of the villages further complicates things. That situation leads to conflict between Jim and his significant other, Kate Shugak.

Normally, this series features Kate, with whom Jim lives, together with her half wolf, Mutt. Unfortunately, Kate does not take an active part in the book until almost 70 pages before the end. Earlier chapters told from her point of view focus on her daily life and explanations about her homestead. These were mostly long digressions that did not actively advance the plot. The usual cast of characters (such as "the Aunties") was completely missing.

I also didn't care for the cliffhanger ending. Even though I would like to know what happened, I don't feel motivated to get the next book, given my lukewarm reaction to this one.

Formerly a training development manager for a large company, Maddy is now retired and continues to enable the addiction of crime fiction fans as owner of the online discussion group, 4 Mystery Addicts(4MA), while avidly reading in every possible free moment herself.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, March 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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