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Bookends: A trail of death leads from the Beaufort Sea to the Yukon River December 29, 2013

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: A trail of death leads from the Beaufort Sea to the Yukon River

By Dan Davidson

July 31, 2013

– 735 words –

 

The Yukon Grieves for No OneYukon Grieves

By Lynn M. Berk

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

270 pages

$16.50

 

A current fashion in mystery novels is to have them begin with an event that does not immediately seem to link up with the rest of the story. In this case we begin with the murder of nameless Inuit hunter, an old man out on the Beaufort Sea. He is shot by someone he identifies as a white man, just before he tumbles out of his boat into the frigid waters.

The death scene is memorable.

“He knew he was going to die. But the sensation was not unpleasant, As he slowly sank into the black water, a great sense of calm and peace came over him His mind emptied, his muscles relaxed, and for the first time in years there was no ache in his knees.”

The remainder of the book is from the viewpoint of Lydia Falkner, formerly an English teacher at Mountainview Community College in Colorado. She’s been downsized due to budget cuts and is coming back to the Yukon, where her father left her a cabin and where she has spent quite a bit of time, to decide what to do next with her life.

The cabin is on the Yukon River, several hours by boat south of Dawson. Berk’s Dawson City is not quite the real thing, though it is a place that is clearly based on our little town, and has fictionalized versions, with changed names, of some of our major landmarks. The same would be true, I suppose, of Eagle Plains, Inuvik and Fairbanks, where parts of the story take place.

Lynn meets an old family friend, Frank Johnson, who is very upset about her plans to sell her Yukon cabin as a means of financing her future. Their one conversation end on a bad note and after Lynn settles in at her place, she heads up river to visit him and make up, only to find that he has been murdered.

Frank has a long history as an environmental activist and she naturally assumes that his death has something to do with his life. The first Mountie on the scene after she reports the killing botches everything badly. Fortunately there is a better specimen of the breed at the local detachment and Corporal Al Cerwinski turns out to be just the man for Lydia, in several senses of the phrase.

Simply tracking down some of the foks who need to be told what has happened to Frank is enough to put her on the trail of some bad people. The actual motive for the murder is more complex than the one she first thinks of. There are layers to the plot that led to Frank’s death and that of the old man in the prologue, and the bungling of Sergeant West eventually endangers the lives of Lydia and her friend Ann in a plot twist that I barely managed to spot before it happened.

This is very readable mystery, reminding me a little bit of the work of both Dana Stabenow and Sue Henry, but with a flavour all its own. The title, by the way, refers to the river itself, not the territory.

Lynn Berk is apparently a professor in the English Dept. at Florida International University. The book itself contains no information about her, but the biographical note on Amazon.ca says that she “splits her time between South Florida and the Colorado mountains. Her real passion, however, is the Far North, where she has spent many summers canoeing, rafting, hiking, and just hanging out in Dawson City, Yukon Territory; Inuvik, Northwest Territories; and Fairbanks, Alaska.”

The book does read like she’s been here enough to get the flavour of the place, but I’ve never met her.

This is her first novel, though not her first book. That appears to have been a rather scholarly sounding tome called English Syntax: From Word to Discourse, published by no less than Oxford University Press in 1999.

She’s chosen to self-publish her first novel, using Amazon’s CreateSpace publishing platform. Except for some awkward cutting trim on the cover, I’d have to say they did a pretty good job for her.  Additionally, the mystery is available as an e-book and distributed through all the major platforms: Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and Nook.

 

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