Dana Stabenow’s intricately plotted, witty, and sometimes gritty Kate Shugak mysteries paint evocative depictions of Alaskan life, from the rugged landscapes of its national parks to the idiosyncratic quirks of its citizens. Kate, a tough, intelligent Aleut working as a private investigator, meets colorful characters, wades through tricky Alaskan politics, and struggles with personal problems and relationships as she solves a wide range of intriguing crimes. Newcomers who haven’t met strong-willed Kate (and her awesome dog, Mutt) should definitely start with the 1st book, A Cold Day for Murder; fans waiting to read the recently released 20th book, Bad Blood, may want to try some of the books below.
Winter Study: An Anna Pigeon Novel – by Nevada Barr
Intrepid park ranger Anna Pigeon returns to Michigan’s Isle Royale National Park, situated in Lake Superior, where she once worked for a summer a decade or so ago. Unlike before, it’s bitterly cold as Anna joins a scientific group that’s been studying wolves each winter for 50 years when the park’s closed. Also on hand is a Homeland Security officer who’s there to see if the study should be shut down and the isolated park opened in the winter. But before too much can happen, a dead woman is found, and Anna knows the wolves aren’t the only dangerous creatures on the island. Kate Shugak fans should appreciate Anna’s toughness and seriousness as well as the strong sense of place and the outdoor settings.
A is for Alibi: A Kinsey Millhone Mystery – by Sue Grafton
Tough California PI Kinsey Millhone’s 1st outing finds her working a cold case for Nikki Fife, the wife of a murdered (and philandering) divorce lawyer. Having served years in prison for the killing, Nikki’s learned of some new evidence and wants Kinsey to find out who really murdered her husband. Like Kate Shugak, Kinsey is a loner (no pets, no plants, no kids, and no current husband) who can take care of herself, but who also has an inner vulnerability. Kate fans who don’t mind leaving the cold climate of Alaska for sunny California should check out Sue Grafton’s fast-paced, well-plotted tales.
Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo
In the sleepy rural town of Painters Mill, Ohio, the Amish and “English” residents have lived side by side for two centuries. But sixteen years ago, a series of brutal murders shattered the peaceful farming community. Kate Burkholder, a young Amish girl, survived the terror of the Slaughterhouse Killer but came away from its brutality with the realization that she no longer belonged with the Amish. Now, a wealth of experience later, Kate has been asked to return to Painters Mill as Chief of Police. Her Amish roots and big city law enforcement background make her the perfect candidate. She’s certain she’s come to terms with her past – until the first body is discovered in a snowy field. To stop the killer before he strikes again, she must betray both her family and her Amish past – and expose a dark secret that could destroy her.