A review of A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow

The book that started the Kate Shugak series…

Dana Stabenow’s A Cold Day for Murder is the first book in her Kate Shugak series, which now runs to more than 20 titles.    And it’s quite a series-starter!   Stabenow’s love for her home state shows in her almost lyrical descriptions of Alaska:  its vistas, its geology, its animals, its seasons, and, of course, its people.  There’s a nice mystery to solve as well.   And, per SYKM, it won the 1993 Edgar for Best Paperback.  

In A Cold Day for Murder, readers get to meet the series protagonist, who is a former investigator for the Anchorage District Attorney’s office.   After several stressful years with the DA, though, and one particularly horrific final case, Kate has retreated into a remote life on her homestead twenty-five miles outside the little town of Niniltna, which is itself a couple of hour plane flight from Anchorage.   Reclusive indeed, but as the story opens, her former boss and an FBI suit have trekked all the way to her place, hoping to talk her into investigating the disappearance of two people last seen in the Park.   After all, Kate grew up in the Park, and furthermore, she’s related to half the people in it.  

The case is complicated by all of those family relationships, by the remoteness of just about everything, and by the fact that Kate’s former boss is also her former lover (and still very much in love with her).   But Kate finally figures out what happened – and sadly, she almost wishes she hadn’t.   A Cold Day for Murder is not a fast-paced mystery or a thriller – if only because, much as with Tony Hillerman’s books set in the American Southwest, the distances involved and the difficulty of travel and communications seem to slow things down.    But the pace feels right for the story, and it is a thoroughly enjoyable book to read.      

I’ve been a fan of (almost) all of the Kate Shugak books for decades – quite literally.   So it felt a bit odd to have been given a review copy now, in 2023, of the very first title in the series, especially since A Cold Day for Murder was first published more than thirty years ago, in 1992.   It felt odd, but it also was a fine excuse to re-read it, and thus remember how much I like both this particular book and this series.  I highly recommend them both.  And finally, my thanks to the publisher, Head of Zeus, and to NetGalley for the review copy.  

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