So Sure of Death
Reviewed: October 24, 2003
By: Dana Stabenow
Publisher: Signet Books
277 pages, $9.99
The second of the Liam Campbell mysteries starts out with a bit
of disconnection from the first. It seemed then that the relationship between
newly transferred State Trooper Campbell and his former lover, Wyanet Chouinard,
might have been on the mend. Something must have happened between one set
of covers and the next, because the situation is not especially cheerful
when this story begins.
Liam is, in fact, almost glad to have an excuse to hire Wyís
services as a pilot. The trip to the site of the disturbance would give them
time to talk. Glad, that is, until he walks in the door of the detachment
office to discover that his new second is a pilot. And a woman. Trooper Diana
Prince, to be exact.
Soon, Liam is off to Kulukak Bay, to investigate a truly nasty
boat fire that has taken the life of an entire family.
Wy, on the other hand, is off to deliver an eccentric archeologist
to his dig, where it quickly becomes apparent that his assistant has met
with foul play while the boss was away. Reluctantly, she realizes she will
have to report this to Liam.
So it goes in this chapter of the story. Liam is still far from
settled in. The only place he could find to live is a leaky fishing trawler.
He is still mired in guilt over the death of his family and over his failure
to properly supervise a delicate situation at his last posting, the failure
that resulted in his demotion and exile to Newenham.
The two mysteries almost manage to take second place to the interplay
of the characters. What about Old Moses, the drunken Yupik shaman? What is
his fascination with tai chi, that he is determined both Liam and Wy will
learn? Is he her father? When she asks that, there is no answer.
What about those ravens - or is it one raven - that seem to turn
up at all the key moments in Liamís life?
And, oh yes, if there wasnít enough going on in his life at the
moment, Liamís no-nonsense father, Col. Charles Campbell, turns up at the
nearby air base, on some sort of mission that he wonít discuss, but which
gives him an opportunity to check up on his errant offspring.
Errant? Well, Liamís in the wrong uniform, you see. By Charles
reckoning, Liam was supposed to follow in his airborne footsteps. Liam, however,
resisted that push, aided by the fact that he canít stand to fly. The only
time he comes close to enjoying a plane ride is when Wy is the pilot; even
then, itís sheer terror.
In spite of all this relationship stuff, there are two solid
mysteries with real solutions in this novel, and both of them involve detective
work, interviews, a chase scene and some fancy fisticuffs. The book moves
so fast you wonder how Stabenow can pack all that into less than 300 pages.
If youíre familiar with the Kate Shugak series, the Campbell
books do share a love of the outdoors, a wicked sense of humour, and pungent
commentaries on a variety of subjects. They differ in narrative voice and
the treatment of sex. Kateís romances are full of Spenser-like double entendres,
word play and lots of activity behind a drawn curtain. Liam and Wy talk a
lot less and grapple a lot more.
So far, the titles in this series have all borrowed lines from
the poetry of Robert Frost. I have to admit to being behind in my reading.
Stabenowís already up to number four in this series. Itís almost unfair when
a writer produces two good series simultaneously. It makes it almost impossible
to keep up.