This debut novel, a mystery thriller, is set in the fictional but entirely plausible Point Mettier, Alaska. Only a couple hundred people live there year-round, and they all live in one apartment building. The rest of the town exists only in warmer months when tourists visit to see icebergs, glaciers, and whales. About an hour from Anchorage on a good day, Point Mettier is reached by one road with a one lane tunnel.
It’s November when Amy finds a severed hand and foot on the rocky shore. Local police assume it is another of the many remains that wash up each year, from suicides, or cruise ship accidents, and since no one in their town is missing, they log the evidence, alert state authorities, and figure that is that. Then Anchorage-based detective Cara Kennedy decides to check things out, thinking there might be a connection to another case that is haunting her.
The story is full of local flavor. Amy’s mother is the owner and cook at Star Asian restaurant, a bland in authentic Chinese food place. Lonnie befriended than adopted Denny, her pet moose. She feeds and walks him everyday. Ellie is the supervisor of the apartment complex and offers odd solutions to the sonic terrors whipped up by the night winds.
Of course a snowstorm closes the tunnel and Detective Kennedy is forced to stay in the town until it reopens. But it’s just as well as more body parts are found and they belong to a victim after all.
At the first finger of sunlight, Cara bolted upright from her sleep, believing for a moment that she was at home in her apartment, then realizing that the musty-smelling unit was not hers, just a transitory space she was holed up in until the tunnel reopened. Seeing a sliver of hope for a sunny day, she decided it was time to get some much-needed fresh air. She grabbed her parka, fueled up on black coffee from the general store, which turned out not to be so bad, then bundled up to step outside.
The wind still stung like nettles, and snow flurries painted the air in textured patterns, but someone had attempted to shovel the walkway and Cara inhaled deeply, welcoming the fresh burst of oxygen. ~Pg. 63
The action kicks off pretty quickly so readers don’t have to wait for the mystery to deepen. The author consistently underscores the quirks of the location and uses them to make the story unique. Underground tunnels built to avoid heavy snow and wind, become getaway routes. Lousy Chinese takeout orders mark the times people are home. And an entire city living under one roof means nothing goes completely unnoticed.
All in all, this is an engaging read for those who enjoy police procedurals with a bit of a twist. There are a couple of ancillary details that feel tacked on. They’re not necessary for the story, but it seems like they should have been hinted at sooner. If they were, I missed it. Still, these moments did not detract from the overall solidity of the book.
My thanks to Loren at Berkley for the advance review copy.
Publisher: Berkley (January 10, 2023)
Hardcover: 304 pages