A ne’er-do-well in Niniltna, Alaska, as bent as he is good-looking, has so far escaped justice, but he may not escape revenge.
When Louis Deem is acquitted in the murder of his third wife because the local jury is terrorized by Deem’s cohort, Auntie Vi, one of the four “aunties” who unofficially run Niniltna, has had enough. She comes to Kate Shugak (A Taint in the Blood, 2004) with two dangerous demands: one, that Deem pay for his crimes, and two, that Kate assume leadership in the Niniltna Native Association, a role she’s assiduously avoided. Kate agrees to bring Deem to justice, though she has no idea how, and ignores the second demand. She speaks with Deem’s latest fiancée, the young daughter of a large family homesteading in Volcanoes National Park near a possible gold deposit. As a result, someone shoots Mutt, Kate’s beloved dog. Then someone breaks into the home of bartender Bernie Koslowski, who collects gold nuggets, and kills his wife and teenage son. Johnny Morgan, Kate’s foster son, insists that he saw Deem do it, but once again there’s no proof. Will Deem get away with murder again?
Yet another strong entry in this long-running series: a satisfying exploration of justice on America’s last frontier with a twisty ending that marks a new stage in Kate’s career.