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    Review of A FINE AND BITTER SNOW by Dana Stabenow (see her website)


    St. Martin's Minotaur, June 2002

    When bureaucrats try to force park ranger Dan O'Brian into early retirement, Kate Shugak springs into action, chatting up the locals with political influence to save Dan's job. It doesn't help, though, when Dan is found crouched over a recently murdered body. Kate is certain that Dan is innocent, but she isn't convinced that the crazy Viet Nam vet turned up as an alternate suspect was the killer either. Still, what possible motive could anyone have for killing an aging World War II WASP? Kate insists on looking--alongside too-sexy cop Jim Chopin.

    Since the death of her lover, Kate has been trying to get her personal life under control. She isn't sure of much, but she is certain that she doesn't want to be the next notch on Jim's belt. Still, Jim seems anxious to allow Kate to tag along as he investigates increasingly unlikely suspects. Kate is sure they haven't found the killer--but she's also certain that everyone has secrets. And, as Jim points out, no secrets can survive a murder investigation.

    Author Dana Stabenow writes convincingly of the Alaska wilds--where 'up the road' means a 70 mile haul and where the only way to stay in touch is by plane. When the close-knit community is shattered by murder, the residents want to pull together and are all to anxious to deny the possibility that the murder might be one of them. Kate's angst over her lost lover adds emotional depth to her character as does her long history with the victim.

    A FINE AND BITTER SNOW is enjoyable reading, but has a few holes. I would have liked to see a little more motivation for Jim to invite Kate along on the investigation--surely sexual desire wouldn't be enough to allow him to drag her along in that way. Also, although fans of the series may know, readers of A FINE AND BITTER SNOW have no idea what Kate does for a living or how she manages to find so much free time to spend rescuing friends and investigating murder. I would have appreciated a bit more of her motivation--and some concept that her life extends beyond chosing boyfriends and chasing killers.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 8/24/02

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