Kate Shugak, Stabenow's Aleutian p.i., doesn't appear until halfway through her ninth adventure, which begins with an armored car hijacking in St. Petersburg, Russia, and moves to the FBI Russian Mafia Task Force in Washington, D.C., before touching down in Kate's hometown. Kate has vanished from Niniltna without a trace, and State Trooper `Chopper` Jim Chopin must leave for an undercover assignment in Bering without her. Coincidentally, Bering is where Kate has hidden herself, working 12-hour shifts as the one-woman ground crew for transport company Baird Air in order to keep her despair over her lover's murder (Hunter's Moon, 1999) at bay. Bering is also where the FBI, Chopper Jim, and the Russian Mafia play hide-and-seek with stolen plutonium. Enraged over Kate’s desertion, and feeling something else he can’t quite sort out, Jim gets scrambled still further when someone shoots him in the head. Swallowing her annoyance at Jim's interference, Kate goes to his rescue, touring a Russian fishing vessel and enlisting the help of a friend who gets beaten to death. Kate’s wolf/husky Mutt foils one attempt on her life, but even she can't help when Kate and Jim have a showdown with a cargo of criminals at 30,000 feet.
An exciting finale, a ten-year-old girl who flies model airplanes, and the return of Kate's fighting spirit make up for a slow start. Stabenow plumbs new depths in the once-shallow Chopper Jim and the violence of Kate's despair.