Dana Stabenow, Author . St. Martin's Minotaur $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-312-20548-5

This is the 12th in a series (after 2001's The Singing of the Dead) that truly evolves rather than simply revisiting the same setting, although that setting is a doozy: an austere and beautiful Alaskan outback, populated with eccentrics and wild creatures. Kate Shugak could be considered a little of both, having grown up in this hinterland and being fond of her own ways. Kate discovers that park ranger Dan O'Brian is about to lose his job, probably because he is against drilling for oil in the local wildlife preserve. In an effort to garner support for Dan, Kate calls on her late grandmother's dear friends, Ruthe and Dina, who together taught Kate the name of every living thing in the park when she was a child. This longtime couple sits on a big chunk of pristine wilderness and works hard to protect other areas. Meanwhile, Dan has fallen for Christie Turner, the new waitress at the Roadhouse, and state trooper Jim Chopin, a notorious womanizer, is focused on the one woman who won't give him the time of day—Kate. She isn't ready for a new relationship, as she is still mourning her dead lover, Jack Morgan, and trying to provide a stable environment for his teenage son, Johnny. When Dina is killed and Ruthe is put on the critical list at the hospital, Kate scrambles to solve the crime while keeping a balance in the rest of her life. Along the way, she finds herself in a brief but torrid encounter with Jim. Rich with details about life in this snowbound culture, the story moves at a steady pace to a classic ending. (June 17)

Forecast:A five-city author tour will help build on the momentum of last year's well-received The Singing of the Dead, though generic jacket art doesn't signal that the author transcends the "regional" category.

Reviewed on: 05/27/2002
Release date: 06/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 240 pages - 978-1-58547-289-5
Mass Market Paperbound - 302 pages - 978-0-312-98947-7
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 978-0-312-70688-3
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-613-99946-5
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-1-4299-0916-7
Ebook - 129 pages - 978-1-78185-022-0
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