Wednesday, August 8, 2018

White Sky, Black Ice: Stan Jones

This series stars Nathan Active, an Alaska State Trooper, and in this first book he is living in the remote village of Chukchi. Although he is Inupiat, and was born in Chukchi, his mother gave him up to white parents who raised him in Anchorage, so his experiences have been very different than the Inupiat people who live there. He doesn't really like his assignment and hopes eventually to be reassigned to Anchorage. When he encounters two suspicious suicides in a week, he decides to check for indications that the victims were murdered.


This is another case where I have fallen for the main character, and want to know where these books will take him. As Nathan Active is a State Trooper, this is a police procedural, and Nathan is a determined investigator, relentless in seeking the truth. I guess you could describe this story as moving at a slow pace, but that worked well in this case.

The description of daily life in the isolated city of Chukchi is intense, sometimes depressing.

The weather is severe, difficult to endure; it amazes me that anyone can survive there.
There were many things he had come to detest about Chukchi since the Troopers had posted him there eighteen months before. But it was probably the west wind he detested most. 
It was the west wind's toothache-like persistence. God help you if you had to go gloveless in it, changing spark plugs on the Suburban or working an evidence camera. It gnawed at your hands and sprayed grit in your eyes. Inside a house at night you could hear it scratching bushes and weeds against the wall. You could feel it suck warm air out the cracks around the windows and push cold air under the door and through the electric sockets.
Stan Jones is a native of Alaska. He has worked as a journalist and a bush pilot. His descriptions of the setting and the challenging environment were convincing.

I have kept my comments on the book brief but if you are looking for more detail, there are several good reviews at:
Reactions to Reading
Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan
An In the Spotlight post at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...
The View from the Blue House


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Publisher:   Soho Press, 2003 (orig. pub. 1999)
Length:       264 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Series:       State Trooper Nathan Active #1
Setting:      Alaska
Genre:       Police procedural
Source:      I purchased this book.



16 comments:

  1. This does sound like an interesting series. I think I've heard of it, but I'm not sure I knew the specifics. Reminds me a bit of Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak books, but sounds more serious. I'm going to check and see if my library has it.

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    1. I need to read the Kate Shugak books, Kay, or at least try a few. I have heard that the first one is not as good as later ones, but I do have that one and will start there.

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  2. I've read a few of those other reviews, too, and am very tempted. We went on a trip to Alaska when we lived in Seattle, and it was one of the most memorable things we did...

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    1. I bet this book (and others set in Alaska) would be a good read if you have actually seen Alaska, Moira. I really can't imagine it. I recently read one by John Straley that was also good, set in Sitka (mostly). Very different from this one but both have good points.

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  3. First, thanks, Tracy, for the kind mention and link. I'm glad you found Nathan Active to be an interesting and sympathetic character. I think he is, too. And I agree with you about the way Jones depicts the setting. It's quite vivid, and shows how challenging it must be to live in a place like Chukchi. If/when you get the time, I hope you'll enjoy the rest of the series.

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    1. I plan to read the rest of the series, Margot, I already have the 2nd one. I hope I enjoy them as much as this one.

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  4. Your review doesn't give me an idea of where in Alaska the town of Chukchi is. Above the Arctic Circle, or north of Fairbanks, or? I've been in Fairbanks and it's no great shakes, but not as bitter as this sounds. As for the book, it sounds just a little too gray for me.

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    1. Honestly, Rick, I am challenged directionally and geographically and I had no idea until you asked and I looked it up. I still don't know for sure. Remote, Northern, cold was enough for me. The book cover says "north of the Arctic Circle", an article at January Mag. says "remote northwest corner of Alaska", and someone else said it is a fictional version of a town on the northwestern coast, on the Chukchi Sea.

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  5. Tracy, another one you've beaten me to! Languishing on the pile somewhere along with some more by him. I'm missing out by the looks of things.

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    1. I liked this one a lot, Col, I hope you like it too by the time you get to it. It isn't very gritty, but definitely not close to cozy.

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  6. TracyK: I am glad that you enjoyed the book. It is a great series that I regret has not gotten a wider readership. I hope it is not because the books are not filled with shootouts and dead bodies. I think you will be drawn deeper and deeper in Nathan Active's life as you read the series.

    It is set on the northwest coast of Alaska which is as remote a place as you can find in the United States.

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    1. I think I will enjoy all of the books, Bill, and I am looking forward to them. I liked the story and the way it is told, and was very taken with Nathan Active.

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  7. Gadzooks! I do believe Arkady Renko has finally died and is now reincarnated! Grim, icy cold, remote--oh, there is a heaven!

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    1. I had not thought of that comparison, Mathew. I will have to get back to the Renko series and see how they do compare. Certainly there are depressing and grim aspects to this book, but also more hopeful aspects.

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  8. Love this series. I'm behind by 3 books. I think. I need to get back to it. Thanks for the reminder. --Keishon

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    1. Glad to hear that you liked the books you read in this series, Keishon. I want to read more, for sure.

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