Murder on the Iditarod Trail (Jessie Arnold Series #1)

( 4 )


The winner of Alaska's world-famous Iditarod -- a grueling, eleven-hundred-mile dog sled race across a frigid Arctic wilderness---takes home a $250,000 purse.

But this year, the prize is survival.

Only the toughest and the most able come to compete in this annual torturous test of endurance, skill, and courage. Now, suddenly and inexplicably, the top Iditarod contestants are dying one by one in bizarre and gruesome ways. Jessie Arnold, Alaska's...

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The winner of Alaska's world-famous Iditarod -- a grueling, eleven-hundred-mile dog sled race across a frigid Arctic wilderness---takes home a $250,000 purse.

But this year, the prize is survival.

Only the toughest and the most able come to compete in this annual torturous test of endurance, skill, and courage. Now, suddenly and inexplicably, the top Iditarod contestants are dying one by one in bizarre and gruesome ways. Jessie Arnold, Alaska's premier female "musher," fears she may be the next intended victim, but nothing is going to prevent her from aggressively pursuing the glory and the rewards that victory brings.

Dedicated State Trooper Alex Jensen is determined to track down the murderer before more innocent blood stains the pristine Alaskan snow. But Jensen's hunt is leading him into the frozen heart of the perilous wild that Jessie Arnold knows so well -- a merciless place far from any vestige of civilization, where nature can kill as fast as a bullet...and only the Arctic night can hear your final screams.

"An enthralling debut" (Publishers Weekly) of a compelling new series. Determined to track down the vicious killer of Iditarod dog-sled race contestants, a state trooper finds himself in the heart of the Alaskan wilderness--where merciless nature can kill as fast as any bullet . . . and only the Arctic night can hear one's final screams.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this enthralling debut mystery, someone is killing the mushers (dog sled racers) competing in Alaska's internationally famous Iditarod--a 1000-mile race from Anchorage to Nome. The first victim's face is ripped off during a freak accident. Later, state trooper Sgt. Alex Jensen, assigned to the routine investigation of an apparently accidental death, learns that the deceased had been drugged and unconscious moments before his sled crashed. As the two-week run in sub-zero cold continues, the second victim is crushed by a rigged dog sled and the third is eaten alive by doped huskies. The $250,000 prize money makes Jensen consider all the competing mushers as suspects; however, as more fall prey to mysterious injuries, he realizes that the killer is after more than cash. While the list of suspects dwindles, pitiless Arctic snowstorms immobilize Jensen's search and leave the surviving racers at the mercy of the killer. Henry provides suspense and excitement in this paean to a great sporting event and to the powerful Alaskan landscape. (Apr.)
Library Journal
After three ``accidental'' deaths early in the running of the torturous Iditarod Trail (from Anchorage to Nome) dog sled race, Alaskan police and race officials step up efforts to prevent further mayhem. State trooper Alex Jensen, single, brooding, handsome, and adept with physical evidence, falls upon the puzzling events with relish, comparing lists, visiting checkpoints, searching sled cargoes, etc. Consulting with race participant Jessie Arnold, he learns some of the inside facts, experiences delaying blizzards, and becomes emotionally attached. Incredible descriptions of scenery, in-depth knowledge of the sport, glimpses of life in the Alaskan hinterland, and incipient romance all contribute to an absorbing read.
School Library Journal
YA-- Contending with the elements in running the grueling Iditarod from Anchorage to Nome is difficult enough, but when three sledders are killed, the two-week race truly becomes a survival test. The cruel beauty of snow, ice, and mountains is breathtakingly captured and adds to the adventure and excitement of Henry's story. A little romance between a Canadian Mountie and one of the mushers produces an irresistible tale. Consider booktalking this with Gary Paulsen's Dogsong (Bradbury, 1985).-- Pam Spencer, Thomas Jefferson Sci-Tech, Fairfax County, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380717583
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/28/2000
  • Series: Jessie Arnold Series , #1
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 165,513
  • Product dimensions: 4.18 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Sue Henry, whose award-winning Alaska mysteries have received the highest praise from readers and critics alike, has lived in Alaska for almost thirty years, and brings history, Alaskan lore, and the majestic beauty of the vast landscape to her mysteries. Based in Anchorage, she is currently at work on the next book in this series.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Date: Sunday, March 3

Race Day: Two

Place: Between Skwentna and Finger Lake checkpoints (forty-five miles)

Weather: Clear skies, light to no wind

Temperature: High 8 degrees Farenheit, low 4 degrees Farenheit

Time: Late afternoon

The Iditarod Trail out of Skwentna, Alaska, ran easy and level, bending its way northwest for miles through snow-covered muskeg. Without strong winds to erase them, the tracks of sled runners were still visible in the late afternoon light. The musher watched them flow beneath his sled. A day and a half into the thousand-mile sled-dog race to Nome, he was among the leaders in a field of sixty-eight participants. His sixteen dogs were eager to run, well rested from a four-hour stop in Skwentna. But, riding the runners behind his sled, George Koptak fought fatigue. An hour of poor sleep at the last checkpoint had not been enough. His body demanded more. He'd spent thirtyone hours on the trail, most of it standing up, pushing the sled or pumping behind it.

Checkpoints in a long-distance race offer little rest for competitors. Once fed, fired dogs almost immediately curl into tight tail-to-nose balls in the snow and sleep. The musher must haul water, cook another batch of dog food for a trail feeding, repack equipment, find something to eat (though his hunger often seems inconsequential compared to his need for rest), and, finally, he down for a ragged hour's sleep.

Excitement, anticipation, and nerves left over from yesterday's start had continued to feed a certain amount of adrenaline into Koptak's system, as had the knowledgethat some of the most difficult challenges in the race must soon be met and overcome.

Now the tired musher leaned forward over the handlebars of his sled, trying to find a semicomfortable way to rest on top of his sled bag. Although the trail was level, it was not smooth, and the bow caught him under the ribs, gouging with every bump. He straightened, stretched his shoulders to relieve the ache between them, pumped for a while with one foot, then the other, and talked to his dogs to keep awake.

At the site of the old, abandoned Skwentna Roadhouse, the trail plunged down onto ice and followed the frozen river for a while before climbing the opposite bank to enter the spruce and alder forest surrounding Shell Lake. Though the sun had set, light lingered on the snow. Knowing it would soon be dark, he stopped his team on the riverbank before going onto the ice.

He snacked his dogs, tossing them frozen whitefish. After munching a few handfuls of trail mix, heavy with nuts and chocolate, he drank half the hot coffee in his metal thermos, filled at the checkpoint. Locating his headlamp, he checked the batteries and fastened it in place. Twenty minutes later he was heading upriver.

For half an hour, the coffee kept him awake. Then, as he came up off the ice and into the trees, fatigue caught him again. He drifted in and out, catching a few seconds of sleep at a time, as the team snaked its way along the trail between the trees with a steady, almost hypnotic rhythm.

When he jerked awake to the dangerous reality of the narrow, winding trail, he was afraid. Dark had fallen quickly among the trees. He switched on his headlamp, losing his perspective and night vision in the process. The trail became a tunnel, closing in around him.

The dogs, stretched out for almost forty feet in front of the sled, were rarely all visible at the same time along the twists and turns of the a-ail. Like fireflies, strips of reflector tape on their harness winked back at him when hit by his light Low-hanging tree limbs flashed by overhead, making turn duck, though most were beyond reach. He knew the agony of having wood lash cold flesh and had seen mushers come into checkpoints with swollen, battered facesthe result of a moment's inattention.

The trail curved perilously close to trees as itswung back and forth through the forest. The sled, responding to the centrifugal pull, slid toward these as if attracted by a magnet. If he didn't quickly throw his weight to control the slide, he risked slamming into the trunks, which bristled with small limbs and sharp broken branches that could scratch and tear at face, clothing, and sled.

One brush against a tree trunk ripped a hole in the sled bag. In the next small clearing, he stopped, knowing he must repair that hole or risk having essential gear fall through and be lost. He searched through his supplies for a needle and dental floss, standard temporary repair material, and squatted beside the sled to attempt the chore.

Trees closed off most of the sky. Only the circle of light from his headlamp, focused on the needle and the tear, was real. Everything else disappeared, even the dogs, the trail. He nodded drowsily, then jerked awake, forcing himself to attention, opening his eyes wide.

After a few minutes of working without mittens his fingers grew numb with cold and he could no longer feel the large needle. He stopped and put his hands under his parka, wool shirt, and long underwear, directly on the warm flesh of his belly. Waiting for feeling to return, he leaned his head against the side of the sled bag and closed his eyes.

He threw his head back with a start, the headlamp casting a narrow arc of light over the sled and trees beyond it. His hands were warm, but more than anything he wanted to lay his face back against the sled.Refusing to give in, he stood up...

Murder on the Iditarod Trail. Copyright © by Sue Henry. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2005

    This is a must read Alaska mystery

    Anyone who likes mysteries and murder mysteries especially, this book is a must read and you should definitely get it. The story details the iditarod race and how three troopers solve five or more mysterious deaths and in the meantime got closer to one of the racers (Jesse Arnold) and found the murderer after city hopping and finally going out to assist Jesse who fell on the ice as a result of a gunshot from a contender (Kranshaw). If you want the details, read the book. It's a puzzle from the beginning and finally unravels after Jesse has finished the race and the murderer watches as she is interviewed.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2000

    A book for everyone

    This book has something in it for everyone, the mystery, scenery descriptions, adventure, and also for dog lovers. It is great and very unpredictable. Henry is an excellent writer!

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    Posted July 19, 2012

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    Posted February 21, 2010

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