A Fine and Bitter Snow by Dana Stabenow
It's been years since I read any of Stabenow's Kate Shugak books, and I honestly couldn't remember why I had stopped. I love a book with a strong sense of place and Stabenow knows how to transport her readers in the Alaska bush. Something else that she does remarkably well is to bring a first time reader up to speed on characters and past story lines without boring the series reader. I felt like I had never stepped away from Kate, conservation vs. tourism, the rights of indigenous peoples vs. the needs of the larger populations, extended family complications and a darn good murder mystery. It's all in this book, and this time there's the addition of some contemporary politics as well: the conservation party in power in Washington is reaching out its long arm, threatening to get rid of the well liked and too green park ranger that Kate and everyone else has grown comfortable with. Kate's love/sex life gets some more attention as well, being told by several characters what most readers must be thinking: you can't keep two guys on a string forever, do something! The suspects in the murder have interesting back stories, and previous supporting characters get well earned attention.
So, why did I stop reading this series? Somewhere along the line, each of her books hit a "not that there's anything wrong with that, but" point. Perhaps that's how it is in Alaska, the people defend their right to be left alone, to live their lives the way they want, but deep down, you're only allowed to be different to a certain degree. Without giving away too much of a plot twist, I'll only say that the presence of a same sex couple doesn't mean what you think it means. And a "strictly heterosexual dog"? Really??
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