St. Martin's, Sep 2004, 24.95, 305 pp.
Over three decades ago in Alaska, wealthy Victoria Pilz Bannister Muravieff was convicted of murdering her oldest son William by setting a fire to their home; her other son Oliver escaped by jumping out a window. At the time of her conviction Victoria insisted she was innocent, but once in jail accepted her lot stoically.
Now Victoria is dying from uterine cancer and her daughter Charlotte, who believes her mom is innocent, wants her to come home. Her only hope is to learn what happened on that fatal day. No Anchorage based sleuth will touch the case so she travels to the wilderness to persuade Kate Shugak to find out who set the fire. Kate accepts the job because the fee is too great to refuse. Talking about refusal, Victoria wants no part of the investigation refusing to assist Kate. As the sleuth continues to dig up information, someone else wants Victoria left behind bars until she dies and that person will kill to keep what happened secret thirty-one years ago.
Shugak's fourteenth Alaska mystery is an enjoyable tale as every new piece of evidence that Kate finds confirms the conviction and the key “witness” will not help her own cause. The story line also contains a romantic subplot, but that detours the reader away from the prime did she really do it. When Kate stays within the course of her investigation, the audience receives a powerful tale of family secrets to include murder and blackmail and a look back at Anchorage that makes the love subplot pale. Fans of the series will appreciate this solid sleuthing tale.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner