Having read the first of Dana Stabenow’s series about Alaskan investigator Kate Shugak, A Cold Day for Murder, I decided to try the first in the author’s more recent series about Alaskan State Trooper Liam Campbell.
Fire and Ice opens when Liam arrives at the remote bush town of Newenham, having recently been demoted owing to a complex back story that is revealed in the first half of the novel. As the plane comes in to land, Liam and the other passengers witness a horrible death, a man who is killed by the propeller of his small plane. As it is his job to investigate, Liam dashes to the scene and is rapidly unsettled by two events: one that the death was clearly not an accident; and two that the plane is owned by his old flame Wyanet Choinard (great name!). I suppose one of these characters is Fire and the other Ice but I am not sure which is which. Anyway, Liam is plunged into a chaotic series of events as he encounters various eccentric characters who boss him around and otherwise prevent him from finding somewhere to stay, causing him to kip in his office and deal, sleeplessly, with many overlapping crises that constantly arise.
Wyanet is a herring-spotter, hired by the fishermen of the region to fly above the sea for the time when the FDA opens a time-window during which the fish can legally be caught. The parts of the book I enjoyed the most were the descriptions of this unusual profession and the schemes that the pilots and seamen use to outfox each other to grab the biggest catch. Less successful is the overblown romance between Wy and Liam, but thankfully that is soon overshadowed by Liam’s investigation. The last third of the book comes to life as a detective novel, as Liam puts together the pieces of a sad tale of abuse and lies that underlie the crimes.
Although this novel is brisk and enjoyable, and provides plenty of local colour and comment, it does not have much depth. It relies too much on repeating the formula of the Kate Shugak novel I read, substituting a male protagonist for a female and a few other cosmetic changes – but the issues addressed, as well as the romantic agonising, characters and situations encountered, are very similar. I liked the book as a light read, but don’t feel compelled to read any more of the series.
I purchased the Kindle edition for 69p, but I note that it is now free on UK Amazon. According to the author’s website it is 99c on US Amazon (I am blocked from seeing US Amazon Kindle prices).