Not particularly mild-mannered reporter Eldon Larkin, back for a fourth adventure (Banjo Boy, 1994, etc.), counters a case of burnout with an Alaskan fishing expedition. Right away, though, he's almost totalled by a totem pole: no ancient artifact but a recent work of art, it turns out. The surly native artist refrains from beating him up, while his hard-drinkin', hard-flirtin' agent, newspaper editor Anita, invites Eldon back to her homestead/office to write puff pieces on the local native celebrations--an arrangement he agrees to, considerng it an opportunity to subsidize his fishing trip. Eldon's excellent erotic adventure is complicated, however, by Anita's gimlet-eyed daughter Cassandra and the sexually competitive blond widow Maggie. When Max the artist is found fatally shot under a totem-in-progress, Chief Ed Katlean invites Eldon to solve the case for the good of the tribe. What follows is a catch-the-killer version of Northern Exposure, complete with winking squaw women, a control-freak storekeeper, a prospector with a paste-on beard, and a dog big enough to qualify for statehood. The wackiness of it all would work better if Eldon weren't so complacently in touch with his dirty-minded inner child, who yearns for mÇnages-Ö-trois and creature comforts at the expense of likability. Great local lore and a decent puzzle, but with a wit, in the end, too weak to bring them to life.