Thursday, November 06, 2008

Friday's Forgotten Books: Mystery Writer Stan Jones

Patti, on her blog Pattinase, has a wonderful series titled Friday's Forgotten Books in which people share books and authors that they feel have either been forgotten or just plain deserve more attention than they're getting. Some excellent reading has been shared, so if you haven't checked out this series, head on over to her blog!

An author whose books I'd like to share with all of you is Stan Jones. A native Alaskan, Jones has written a series of mysteries centered on Alaska State Trooper Nathan Active who patrols the coldest beat in America: the tiny Inupiat village of Chukchi north of the Arctic Circle. Active, born in Chukchi, was adopted by two white schoolteachers in Anchorage. This has left him with feelings of resentment toward his birth mother and loathing for the village in which he was born.

When you open the pages of one of Jones' mysteries, you find yourself immersed, not only in an intriguing whodunit filled with multi-dimensional, interesting characters, but also in a language, a culture and a landscape that mesmerize. Jones does such an excellent job in portraying the landscape and weather north of the Arctic Circle that I have a tendency to read his books only in the blast furnace heat of a Sonoran Desert summer while lounging in the pool.

There are three books in the Nathan Active series with a fourth planned for 2009. The published books so far are:

White Sky, Black Ice: In his first big case with the Troopers, Nathan comes to suspect that the suicides of two Chukchi villagers aren't suicides at all, but murders intended to cover up environmental crimes. He solves the mystery, but not without a little help from a bingo-loving aana, or Inupiat grandma.

Shaman Pass:
The return of an ancient mummy to Chukchi triggers a murder that leads Nathan to the mummy's original burial site in Shaman Pass, a spot so wild, remote, and forbidding that the winds there are said to kill caribou.

Frozen Sun:
At the request of a despairing mother, Nathan reluctantly sets out to find Grace Palmer, a long-lost village beauty whom he knows only from her pictures. He ends up face to face with an agonizing question: Is Grace Palmer dead, or is the woman with whom he’s falling in love a cold-blooded killer? His drive to find the answer will cost him his relationship with his longtime girlfriend and nearly destroy his career before he finally solves the mystery of the haunted and haunting Grace Palmer.

I count Stan Jones as one of my favorite mystery writers, and one who deserves a much wider audience. I'm looking forward to the fourth book in the Nathan Active series:

Village of the Ghost Bears: A fire kills eight people at Chukchi's recreation center and there are almost no clues as to who set it, or why. A state arson investigator who flies into the village to sift through the ashes gives Nathan a piece of advice that turns out to be prophetic: "Find out who he was after, and you'll find out who he is." Before he can do that, Nathan must untangle a baffling web of connections involving outlaw Bush pilots, the illicit trade in polar bear gall bladders, and a schizophrenic poacher who claims to be channeling the spirit of his dead twin sister. Coming in September 2009.


  1. I love these kinds of atmospheric mysteries that rely heavily on the setting or other cultures. I'm truly going to miss Hillerman, for example.

    These sound really amazing. I'll make sure I have hot chocolate on hand!

  2. Good idea, Lana! I know what you mean about Hillerman. Fortunately, I am within an easy drive of the land and people he wrote of so beautifully.

  3. These sound wonderful, Cathy. Somehow I missed him.


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