(Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer AUG 3, 2003)
This'll be fun, she thought, turning her attention to what needed to be done before she could leave.
What could possibly not be fun about the Alaska State Fair?
She had no way of knowing that the answer to such an assumption would not be long in coming."
Jesse Arnold would usually rather be training her world class champion sled dogs than working at the Iditarod booth at the Alaskan State Fair, but it's the best extra curricular idea she can come up with, since she's still recovering from knee surgery. Actually, in this case, she's eager to help, both as a favor to an old friend, and as a chance to interact with racing fans and do something positive with her time.
Two others decide to come to the fair as well. Danny Tabor forgot to mow the lawn the day before, and so his parents have decided not to let him go. Angry because he doesn't understand why he can't mow the lawn now and go, and since he saved money for it all summer, he runs off anyway. He's just about to go home and face the music when two men come into the alley where he stashed his bike. They fight, and one throws his backpack on top of Danny's. Not wanting to get caught in the middle of a brawl, he grabs his bag...and doesn't realize until the guys begin to give chase that he grabbed both bags. He panics and keeps going, eventually ditching the bike to hide under a table. There he meets Frank Monroe, who, tired of the indignity and lack of privacy that he has to suffer at the Assisted Living Center he calls home, has decided to run away as well. The nurses are obtrusive and lacking in respect, and Frank has no freedom, no privacy. He rides the bus to the grocery store with the other inmates, and after picking up a few things, jumps in a cab to go to the fair. He's hiding under a table when Danny meets him because he has decided to stay there...at least over night, as it seems like a safe place to sleep.
Jesse is brought into the situation when one of the two fighting men is found dead, and for the two fugitives hiding under the table it becomes a dangerous game of cat and mouse to take the bag to the Lost and Found before the remaining man finds them. When Tank, then Jesse herself, become numbered among the missing, Jesse will find her answers...and a challenge like never before just to survive.
I like the way this story is told. We start out at Jesse's Cabin (which, those of you who read Dead North will know is a very recent addition) where a large group of people -- Phil Becker, Danny Tabor, Frank Monroe, and some others are gathered to discuss the happenings of the past days. State Trooper Becker wasn't there, and he wants to know every detail...so Danny, Frank and Jesse each take a turn telling their story. As each retells how their paths intersect before the incident and their personal viewpoint of these meetings, it adds interest to the story because we see how each of these very different people from very different walks of life...a musher, a rebellious boy and an older man trying to hold onto his dignity...react to what becomes an increasingly scary and volatile situation. Also, Jesse's path, and Frank and Danny's path, form the main plot and the subplot in some ways, and even though these plots are separate, they twist together and the actions of these people really end up impacting the other...even when they are far away from each other. Henry shows some deft plotting here, creating a dense but fast moving mystery.
The usual aspects of this story...the beautiful Alaskan scenery, her occupation as musher and sled dog trainer, and her beautiful lead dog Tank are all here and well employed. For me, there are so many mystery series out in the world that I tend to pick according to the main character's occupation; to me an occupation like musher, or in the case of other author's books, jockey or park ranger, is what makes a mystery special. The occupation impacts the story, because the murder has to somehow be brought into these very normal people's worlds...and that's what makes Sue Henry's stories constantly cool for me, because not only are the mysteries themselves great, but I get to live in a place and experience a life style that I would never get to otherwise. She does a great job.
If the summer heat is getting to you, grab this book and get lost in an Alaskan Autumn...and a deeply engrossing plot.
- Amazon readers rating: from 9 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Death Trap at MostlyFiction.com
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Murder on the Iditarod Trail (1991) * /
- Termination Dust (1995) *
- Sleeping Lady (1996) *
- Death Takes Passage (1997) *
- Deadfall (1998) *
- Murder on Yukon Quest (1999)
- Beneath the Ashes (2000)
- Dead North (2001)
- Cold Company (2002)
- Death Trap (June 2003)
- Murder at Five Finger Light (April 2005)
- Degrees of Separation (April 2008)
*State Trooper Alex Jensen is main sleuth in these novels, with Jesse Arnold as helpful "friend."
Maxie and Stretch Mysteries:
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- Twilight Lane Chapter One excerpt of Murder on the Yukon Quest
- Twilight Lane Chapter One excerpt of Deadfall
- The Mystery Reader review of Beneath the Ashes
- Crescent Blues review of Dead North
- Crescent Blues review of Cold Company
- BookReporter.com review of Cold Company
- Mystery Reader review of The Tooth of Time
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About the Author:
Sue Henry, whose award-winning Alaska mysteries have received the highest praise from readers and critics alike, has lived in Alaska for almost a quarter of a century, and brings history, Alaskan lore, and the majestic beauty of the vast landscape to her mysteries.
Based in Anchorage, where she teaches writing at the University of Alaska, Anchorage.