Known for her evocative wilderness settings, Edgar-winner Stabenow heads into urban territory in her uneven 14th Kate Shugak mystery, which is set mainly in Anchorage and picks up where 2003's A Grave Denied left off. Charlotte Bannister Muravieff, of an influential Alaska family, hires Kate to prove that her imprisoned mother, Victoria, wasn't the culprit behind a 30-year-old tragedy. Convicted of setting a fire in her house that killed her sleeping son William, Victoria is now dying of cancer. Kate hires poacher Kurt Pletnikoff, who's come to Anchorage for work, to help interview everyone still alive connected with the crime, including a reluctant Victoria and her remaining son, Oliver. Fast-paced action scenes, sympathetic child characters and Kate's appealing dog, Mutt, help smooth a complex plot strewn with chunks of historical background. Those looking for bodice-ripping romance will savor the heat generated between Kate and Alaska state trooper Jim Chopin, though established fans may be dismayed by Kate's aggressive sexual behavior. First-time readers may wish that a host of supporting characters, mostly Kate's friends and relatives, were better identified. Agent, Rich Henshaw. (Sept. 20) Forecast: Backed by a blurb from Michael Connelly, the publisher hopes to break Stabenow out of category with a 75,000-copy first printing and a national author tour. If this book doesn't do it for the deserving Stabenow, another one will. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Since the wealthiest suspect in Stabenow's novels (A Grave Denied, 2003, etc.) is usually the guiltiest, Kate Shugak is in a tough position when the daughter of two of Alaska's oldest leading families hires her. Victoria Pilz Bannister Muravieff was once wealthy and privileged. For the past 30 years, however, prison guards have supervised her wardrobe and delivered her mail. Now that she's been diagnosed with cancer, her daughter Charlotte, frantic to keep her from dying in stir, drives all the way out to Kate's brand-new house in the Bush to hire the detective to prove her mother innocent of her son's murder. Kate refuses until the zeroes in the retainer change her mind. In Anchorage, she learns more about the day Victoria and teenaged Charlotte were helping Victoria's powerful brother Erland give a party. On their return, the family home was in flames; Oliver, the younger son, jumped out a window; but William, the older, died in the blaze. Victoria never denied deliberately setting the fire. So why is Kate suddenly receiving an invitation and some intense personal interest from Erland Bannister, a man who's never used his influence to help his sister? And why does someone try to kill Kate's new assistant and then succeed in killing her client?Promising intrigue that is either muddied or enhanced by Kate's love life, depending on whether you find her as irresistible as Stabenow obviously does. First printing of 75,000. Agent: Richard Curtis. All Kate Shuganack novels to Trailopolis Entertainment