Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Skeleton Lake, by Mike Doogan ($7.99)

This is the continuing story of Nikiski "Nik" Kane, a former Anchorage police detective, former jailbird, former father and husband, current lost soul. He was injured badly at the end of Capitol Offense and is struggling to recover at the start of Skeleton Lake. In the best cliff-hanger style, his survival and that of his son were left to our imagination at the end of Capitol Offense.

While recuperating, Nik has "dreams." He relives the time when his father abandoned his family when Nik was about 13. He also relives his first detective case, the murder of a fellow police officer. As Nik gets better he seriously begins to try to solve these most important mysteries of his life.

We meet Nik's alcoholic and despondent mother and Nik's brothers and sisters, especially his sister Cee Cee, who eventually becomes a nun. We see young Nik struggle to help support his family. We see Nik and his first partner struggle to solve the murder, and fail. What can Nik do 45 years after his father disappeared and 22 years after the murder? As if his life depends on it, Nik struggles with his current physical and mental pain to bring clarity to those issues from long ago. What relief or complication will their resolution bring him?

Mike Doogan does a wonderful job bringing Nik to life. His story has heart and redemption. He struggles to relearn how to be connected to the rest of the world. He had been so used to compartmentalizing his world that it is difficult to share his grief and need. These are the ingredients that can make a story great. And I liked everything … but the resolution of the murder, which seemed a little weak. Why would the victim meet with his murderer, given the murderer's reputation?

Nevertheless, this was a darned good story and worthy of Carolyn's nomination as one of 2009's best paperback releases.

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