Review

A Grave Denied

by Dana Stabenow

In
the cold and dangerous Alaskan landscape, a group of teenagers
finds a corpse frozen at the edge of a glacier. After Johnny Morgan
and his schoolmates make the gruesome discovery, the body is
identified as local handyman Len Dreyer. State trooper Jim Chopin
quickly calls in consulting investigator Kate Shugak to help him
solve the case. Right away it is obvious from the huge bullet wound
in Dreyer's chest that they are dealing with a murder. But why
would anyone kill the man they all relied on for important work,
big jobs and small? As Shugak works to answer this question, she
soon realizes that while everyone in and around the Park is
familiar with Dreyer, no one really knows him at all. And even a
timeframe for the crime is difficult to construct as no one in the
Park or in the nearby village of Niniltna even realized Dreyer was
missing.

The Park is the national park where Shugak and others homestead.
Shugak herself has a 160-acre homestead where she lives with her
canine companion Mutt and now with Johnny Morgan, the
fourteen-year-old son of her deceased lover. Smart and fiercely
independent, Shugak takes on this case knowing that she is now
responsible for housing and feeding Johnny in addition to herself.
But in taking the case she exposes them both to extreme danger
because somebody, perhaps Dreyer's killer, now wants her dead as
well. Maybe Shugak is getting too close to the truth about this
mysterious man.

Further complicating Shugak's work is her tense relationship with
Chopin, a wannabe detective named Dandy Mike, the isolated
lifestyles of the area residents, and her concern for Johnny and
his well-being.

The truth about Dreyer's murder is as unexpected as it is shocking;
the killer is as unlikely as it gets. A GRAVE DENIED is
well-crafted with a straightforward and interesting plot and a
number of great characters, most notably Shugak. In many ways, the
story is also about the setting --- the glorious Alaskan wilderness
and the fascinating people who live there. Dana Stabenow's sense of
place and respect for Alaska and its citizens is obvious.

Basically this a good old-fashioned murder mystery, with a
carefully rendered atmosphere, several suspects, a corpse no one
knows much about and an awesome protagonist, who is trying to live
her life the best she can while exploring a horrible death. This is
crime fiction with requisite twists and turns but it is far from
ordinary. A GRAVE DENIED is a mystery worth spending time in.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on January 22, 2011

A Grave Denied
by Dana Stabenow

  • Publication Date: July 11, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0312985649
  • ISBN-13: 9780312985646