cover image White Sky, Black Ice

White Sky, Black Ice

Stan Jones. Zipper Books, $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-56947-152-4

The hero of Jones's promising first novel is Nathan Active, an Alaska state trooper. He is an Inupiat, but was given away by his mother when he was a baby, and raised by a white couple in Anchorage. Now he knows little of his background, and feels torn between two worlds. Nathan's bafflement hasn't been helped by his work assignment in Chukchi, the town in the rural northwestern corner of Alaska where he was born and where his birth mother still lives. The Inupiat townsfolk there have welcomed the opening of the Gray Wolf copper mine, as it provides jobs for young people. The number of wife-beatings and liquor-related offenses has declined dramatically. But now two local men have died in the same week, each of a gunshot wound in the throat. Locals assume that the deaths were suicides, especially as one of the young men belonged to a family whose members are subject to a curse. Nathan is not convinced--even in suicide-prone Chukchi, men don't usually shoot themselves in the Adam's apple. While this tough, gritty mystery generates only modest suspense, its exotic setting will hold readers throughout. Jones has a real knack for depicting the daily life of a small Inupiat community, and the toll that alcoholism has taken on it. (May)