Think of gold, lots of gold.
Global Harvest Resources Inc. has discovered 42 million ounces of everyone’s favorite metal at the Suulutaq Mine, on state leases smack in the middle of Alaska’s Iqaluk Wildlife Refuge. Eager to assay even more, mine superintendent Vern Truax brings in a staff of dozens who work for a week, then head for a week off in the nearest town—Niniltna, 100 miles away—to drink, flirt and buy souvenirs. A suicidally inclined few opt for an unarmed stroll in the park, courting “death by Alaska” (aka, getting mauled by a bear or moose). When bits of a body duly turn up, investigator Kate Shugak (Whisper in the Blood, 2008, etc.) heads for the mine to see if anyone is missing and learns that Dewayne Gammons has been a no-show for a week. Despite niggling doubts, Kate writes him off as a suicide. When Gammons drags himself into Kate’s yard a month later, the cute Aleut has to reconsider. First, who was the bear’s real meal? Second, why has Gammons’ friend Lydia, another mine employee, also turned up dead? And third, how are the two fatalities connected to State Trooper Jim Chopin’s search for a bigamist, or to an industrial spy serving three paymasters, each craving proprietary information concerning the Suulutaq Mine?
Kate, still unhappily serving as the chair of the Niniltna Native Association, is even unhappier about cell phones, moneyed tourists and other encroaching changes to the Alaskan lifestyle, not to mention the greed that accelerates them.