The opening chapters are a bit slow and may be hard for readers new to the series. But once the main murder case starts up, it's a suspenseful, surprising ride to the finish that raises some thought-provoking questions, reminiscent of Dennis Lehane's Mystic River. Kate is an impressive heroine -- sexy yet fearsome, smart yet rash -- and her exploits are engaging.

The residents of Nniltna, Alaska, have been waiting for Louis Deem's bad behavior to finally catch up with him. P.I. Kate Shugak, who's seen Deem slip through legal loopholes, despite the mysterious deaths of his former girlfriends and wife, thinks she has him dead to rights when a mother and son are shot to death in their home. Kate's adopted son, Johnny, saw the shady outline of the killer from a hiding place and will attest that it was Deem.

But Kate worries that the evidence is not enough and that Johnny feels pressured to name Deem as the killer. When there's another murder, the community must come to terms with the measures they took to find justice. (ST. MARTIN'S MINOTAUR, Jan., 272 pp., $24.95)

Reviewed by: 
Tara Gelsomino