North of everything, where even Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak and Sue Henry's Alex Jensen fear to tread, Alaska State Trooper Nathan Active plies a slow but steady trade in law enforcement in his hated native village of Chukchi. Lately, a pair of suicides has made life more interesting for Nathan. Not many people shoot themselves in the throat with rifles, but both Gray Wolf miner George Clinton and mechanic Aaron Stone did--George in continuing fulfillment of a family curse that's already carried off his two older brothers as suicides--unless Nathan wants to believe a mean old drunk who informs him cryptically that George was really killed by ""that qauqlik"" (""the chief""), and the growing evidence that Gray Wolf, which has poured money into Chukchi and sharply cut domestic violence complaints in the village, may not be the smiling Big Brother it appears. Working his way through a bleak, lovingly rendered northern landscape, his own divided feelings about police dispatcher Lucy Generous, and a cast polarized by race, class, and their positions on hunting and liquor and the law, Nathan finally puts the pieces together, though not in time to prevent a third suicide. There's never much mystery about what's behind Chukchi's troubles, but first-timer Jones takes aim at his familiar targets with zest and brings them down in a rousing finale, though one that seems as long as an Alaskan winter.