I got a complimentary copy of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review – thank you very much!
Kris Gabriel flies to Juneau, Alaska, to meet with her long-estranged mother, Evie. They haven’t seen each other for nine long years, since teenage Kris got into a plane and escaped to Los Angeles leaving her unreliable, alcohol-addicted parent and harsh Alaskan climate behind. Still, despite having sent a letter announcing her arrival, when she lands in Juneau nobody is there to greet her.
Soon Kris finds out her mom was murdered and her body found in a creek by a local trapper. Who would want to kill a penniless Athabascan woman with penchant for alcohol and men? Certainly the police is less than eager to discover the truth. What secrets will Kris reveal while looking for the perpetrator on her own? Is there far more at the stake than finding the killer?
It was a very good read for several reasons. Firstly you could feel on every page the author was there, did that and knows plenty about Alaska and people inhabiting it, indigenous or not. That atmosphere, the sense of community, descriptions of different houses would be difficult to fake. He also could weave an interesting story populated with solid, well-motivated bunch of characters. You can easily imagine why a girl living alone in a big bad city almost the whole continent away would like to reunite with her mother. You can also understand with ease why Kris wants to find the murderer of Evie and why she doesn’t trust the police officers to be equally motivated.
Kris was one hell of a heroine by the way – jaded, gutsy but somehow very vulnerable, still burdened by the fact that her mum was an addict and a whore unable to keep her kid fed and sheltered. She carries one hell of a chip on her shoulder but she carries it well. Still it is clear she doesn’t trust people and they usually pay her that compliment back, especially men. Kris’s relationship with Justin, a young man too curious and too adventurous for his own good was done very well. If the author went toward an easy romance I would hate it but, fortunately, nothing about Kris was easy. The rest wasn’t easy either – it was one of these stories which make you sympathize with murderers and feel contempt for guys who claim are ‘good’.
Was this book perfect, though? Hardly.
The story dragged a bit when Kris went to the bush to look for her half-brother, Corvus and I wish Alvilde Lambale was given more place and scenes in the book (I don’t want to spoil you so I won’t say why). Also the final escape from the cops (once again I have to be rather vague) was brushing against ‘mission impossible’; still the bittersweet ending won me over.
A gripping story about coming to terms with difficult childhood and less than decent parent, emphasized by harsh Arctic weather. Highly recommended even though it has its flaws.