“To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world. — John Muir
Alaska is what happens when Willy Wonka and the witch from Hansel and Gretel elope, buy a place together upstate, renounce their sweet teeth, and turn into health fanatics. — Sloane Crosley
I love Alaskan mystery/suspense/adventure tales. There is just something about the landscape, the breathtaking beauty, and unusual characters that calls out to the wannabe homesteader in my soul. The person who could be perfectly happy in a cabin in the woods, surrounded by beauty on all sides, wild creatures, the scent of spruce, cedar and pine, the sound of an eagle’s cry.
Of course, the whole, “damn it’s COLD!”, the snow higher than the eves, and the mosquitoes larger than 747’s, and the idea of breaking a leg and being eaten by bears in the woods is rather off-putting . . . Grin. But I can still get a vicarious thrill from authors like the marvelous Dana Stabenow. And now, Robin L. Barefield. Ms. Barefield’s “Murder Over Kodiak” is her second book, and it holds great promise as a new series for my lists.
There is much to recommend Murder Over Kodiak, and not just my rather obsessive love of Alaskan fiction. Dr. Jane Marcus is a research biologist posted to Kodiak Island. Located off the south coast of Alaska, separated from the mainland by the Shelikof Strait, Kodiak is the largest island in the Kodiak Archipelago. Isolated, often cut off from the continent by fog and vicious storms, Kodiak is a quiet island of oddballs and academics, rather boring but for the gossip. Until, that is, things start to fall apart.
Three people have died from PSP, paralytic shellfish poisoning, a saxitoxin found in shellfish, one of the more popular foodstuffs on the island. As a biologist for The Kodiak Braxton Marine Biology and Fisheries Research Center, it is Jane’s job to not only help develop a test for PSP that can be easily administered by those who dig shellfish for their dinner, but to identify the strain of toxin that killed the victims. When Jane sends Craig, her student and assistant, on his first solo trip to gather shellfish for testing she isn’t worried. Craig is methodical, cautious, and knowledgeable about the dangers inherent in the wilds of the island. Bears and poisonous plants abound, but Craig is more than competent. He can handle anything.
Anything, but the bombing of the airplane he shares with an oddly assorted cast of characters. Though Craig hasn’t an enemy in the world, all of the others, including the pilot, have their own set of enemies, any of which could make them the target for a devastating bomb. A much hated corporate raider, known for destroying companies and their owners. His Senator wife, involved in a hard fought reelection campaign with a possible Mexican drug cartel puppet. The much hated Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge manager, bullying others about the rules of the park but breaking them continuously for his own aggrandizement with his political cronies. And a local cannery owner whose bitter wife may or may not be involved. Then there is poor Bill, the sweet young pilot, whose ‘girlfriend’ is the epitome of a disturbed teenage girl. Any could be the target of the bomb. But who was its intended target?
Things get even more ‘interesting’ in the Chinese manner as Jane’s life is threatened, the press arrives in a voracious hoard, and the suspect list grows. From the decidedly self-centred son of the Senator to possible Mexican cartel hitters, the terror cranks up to an unexpected, highly appealing climax. Barefield uses her knowledge of Kodiak, its people, the ‘Alaskan Mindset’ and the ecology and weather of the island to create a beautifully crafted, and unexpected, novel.
The only thing that really bothered me about the novel, as with so many other self-published books, is the lack of editorial oversight. I am perfectly capable of immersing myself in novels, losing all sense of time. However, though it seems a small thing, improper adverb placement was completely distracting, bringing me crashing out of the story in irritation every few pages. Another issue I often see? Relying on spell check. It is a tool, much like a wrench or a screwdriver. It relies upon the wielder to utilize it correctly. Ms. Barefield could have paid a bit more attention. A few other issues, but minor.
Even given the editorial issues, this book touched the aspiring Alaskan in my soul. I will be reading the first book by Ms. Barefield when I can, and will watch for others by her. If you want to learn more about Kodiak and the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuse, visit Ms. Barefield here.
I received “Murder Over Kodiak” from StoryCartel in exchange for a realistic review. All thoughts are my own.
About the Author:
I live an incredible life in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. I hope to share my life with you and talk about Kodiak wildlife and the beautiful, and sometimes challenging, environment in which I live.
I have a master’s degree in fish and wildlife biology and have worked the last 30 years as a wildlife-viewing guide on Kodiak Island. I am currently writing a book about the wildlife of Kodiak Island, so many of my blog posts will be dedicated to wildlife facts and news.
My husband and I own and operate Munsey’s Bear Camp, a hunting, fishing, and wildlife-viewing lodge. It is a small lodge, and we only accommodate six people at a time, but these small groups are perfect for viewing wildlife, especially when we hike up a stream and sit quietly on the bank watching Kodiak bears chase and catch salmon.
Our lodge is our home, where we live year-round with our two cats. We experience the breath-taking beauty of a sunset on a perfect July evening, and the raging 100 mph winds of a stormy January afternoon.
Wildlife biology is my first passion, and my second is writing mysteries. The first rule of living in the wilderness is to embrace solitude and solitary endeavors. Writing is the most solitary of endeavors, so it is perfect for me. Mysteries are what I like to read, so mysteries are what I write. I currently have one mystery, Big Game, published in 2012 and available at Amazon Kindle. My second novel, Murder Over Kodiak, was published in April, 2015.
Please join me on my blog and interact in the discussion. I look forward to meeting you, learning about your life, and sharing mine.