In his third outing, Alaskan State Trooper Liam Campbell (Fire and Ice, 1998, etc.) has his hands full pursuing air-taxi pilot Wyanet Chouinard. Liam’s worried about a new crisis concerning Wy’s adopted teenaged son, Tim, when his abusive birth mother shows up with a court order to see her son. Figuring that Tim’s mother can’t stay away from the bottle until they return, Liam finesses the letter of the law by asking the local magistrate/bar owner and her lover, a cranky shaman, to take Tim to their fish camp. So far so good—until Wy finds the dead body of much-loved Opal Nunapitchuk while flying her postal route. And Wy’s not the only one finding bodies: an Alaska Airline flight intercepts a 911 call from local hunters who’ve found prospector Mark Hanover, shot in the river along Wy’s mail route. Hanover’s beautiful wife Rebecca, angry at her husband’s obsession with gold, has disappeared. Both the hunters and the wife look good for Hanover’s death until a third victim, also on Wy’s route, is found. Meantime, investigators start wondering about the number of missing young women in the area over the last 15 years. A grim pattern of serial crime emerges, converging on the next stop on Wy’s mail route: the fish camp where young Tim is staying with Liam’s friends.
Readers willing to sluice through a distracting number of subplots and locals, including an Arthurian serial killer, will be rewarded by flashes of gold in Stabenow’s quirky characters and her impressively exhaustive exploration of the varieties of love.