Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A FATAL THAW by Dana Stabenow

It's official -- I've made it through my pile o' mysteries. At least the ones that are due back at the library tomorrow. (g) I'm still working on Elizabeth George's WRITE AWAY, slogging my way through it slowly. But I hope to finish it up tonight. If not, it's gotta go back anyway. Heh. May have to skim through the highlights.

Anywho -- on to this review. I read A COLD DAY FOR MURDER not too long ago, and I have to admit it didn't really snare my attention. To be completely honest, I had a hard time making it through all 200 pages. There were large chunks of Alaskan backstory -- be it description of this or that landmark or a long passage about the passing of this or that bill and how it affected trade or whatnot. Her descriptions in general -- be it of a person or place -- were longwinded lists of every minute detail, without any real character voice or reason I should care to know so much. If that makes sense. (g) It felt like I was reading non-fiction for a good majority of it, rather than a novel I could sink my teeth into.

I did find Kate Shugak to be an interesting character, but I wasn't overly eager to get the next book. The main reason I picked it up was that SO many people seem to really love this series. I had to know what all the hubub was about, bub. Even with it sitting there, it took a great deal of effort to pick it up. I don't know if it's me, or if that first book was truly lacking...but it just didn't appeal to me. At all.

This book was better -- much better. I'm actually glad I checked it out and gave it a shot. I can't say the series is on my "must-read" list, but I would definitely pick up another. They're quick reads, and the characters really started to pop out in this second book.

Brief Synopsis: A mass murderer goes on a killing spree in Kate's hometown, killing 9 people. As it turns out, though, one of the victims was shot by someone else. Now it's Kate's job to figure out who.

So yeah, those thick passages of description have pretty much been eliminated, to be replaced by more real-time action and some pretty dang snappy dialogue. I'm intrigued by the implied love triangle that was set-up in this book, between Bobby, Jack, and Kate. What I really like is that nothing about these characters is all that conventional. Jack is probably the most "normal" -- an invesigator who often calls Kate in for local help on cases. Bobby is a black, ex-vet amputee, who lost both legs in Vietnam. Kate is a native Alaskan who was almost killed by a child molester, and still wears a reminder of the near fatal encounter: thick scar tissue around her neck that forever altered her voice to a harsh rasp.

They're real -- flawed and definitely haunted by things in their pasts. Oh, and definitely attracted to each other. I find that extremely interesting. (g)

The story set off at a great pace and continued until the end. Stabenow has a pretty uncanny ability to keep a lot of things from the reader -- not sure whether I would call it blatant "cheating" but she definitely walks the line. LOL. Some parts of the story seem a bit fantastic...but well, it's fiction, so there ya go.

Overall, a fun read. I was grossed out to no end about the "Middle Finger" shots, but it's that kind of small detail that really brings the story and setting alive. If you've never been to Alaska, you can definitely travel there through these books.

Buy or Rent? It's a tough call. I'll probably read at least another 1-2 before making a final decision.

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