Active masked his astonishment as she swept into the room, complete with the Helly-Hansen parka, the rectangle glasses, the weapons-grade cheekbones, and a cloud of the famous perfume, though he couldn’t remember what it was called. And the calf-length high-heel boots – what was the brand?
The Governor, back in in Chukchi where she had been a high school basketball star and later coach, insists to all concerned she be called “Suka” (Fast).
She has already gained notoriety from her last attempt at national office:
Especially since the run for vice-president on something called the Free America ticket that seemed to have stuck her manic personality in permanent overdrive.
The Governor has come North to gain some publicity and video as she prepares to launch a Presidential campaign. She has no filter between thought and speech and is very charming.
Jones describes her allure:
She turned summer eyes and the campaign smile on Cowboy. “You can get us through, right, Cowboy? You’re the famous Bush pilot. Don’t I remember the village girls calling you Clouddancer?”
Suka is flying inland on a bush plane to follow her husband’s effort to win the Isignaq 400 dogsled race that ends in Chukchi.
Having the handsome Active, an Inupiat, at her side can only enhance the video.
In Alaska what the Governor wants she gets and Active is in the plane sitting beside the Governor.
There can hardly be a North American who does not recognize that Suka has been inspired by former Alaska governor and Vice-Presidential candidate, Sarah Palin.
Forced down by bad weather they camp overnight on a slough. Suka enhances her video wilderness cred by shooting a caribou for supper. Her actual wilderness skills are selective. She gut shot a pregnant cow caribou and her son finishes the kill to avoid her getting blood on her clothes and he has to dress the animal for her.
Suka manipulates the sleeping arrangements to spend the night alone in the tent with Active sharing a sleeping bag. It is a double bag. Active maintains the slight distance possible from her. When they arise the Governor has scratches, self-inflicted or from the zipper, on her neck. Once public the scratches set social media afire and leave Grace Palmer, Active’s lover, enraged.
Between her overt sexuality, “manic personality” and powerful position Governor Mercer is a wonderful character who dominates Tundra Kill.
For much of the book Suka’s presence obscures the investigation into the death of Pete Wise, an alcoholism counselor, who has died after being run over by a snowgo (snowmobile in Canada) near Chukchi.
Finding a motive for someone to kill Wise is a challenge. Unlike most residents of Chukchi he has led a quiet life with few friends and no girlfriends. Many suspect he is gay.
Active is responsible for the murder investigation as he has moved from the State Troopers to become the Chief of Police for the newly created Chukchi Regional Borough. Modest in population the Borough is larger than 15 American states.
Active and Palmer are working on a permanent relationship. Issues from her past continue to haunt her.
Initially the book is less focused on Inupiat culture than earlier books in the series but the conclusion is amazing. It is dramatic and unexpected and could only have taken place in the Alaskan Arctic.
Jones has extensive insight into and knowledge of “village” life on the Northwest Coast of Alaska. The residents enjoy, even embrace, their physically isolated home. Jones makes me want to visit Alaska’s Northwest coast.
It is a land where a man is viewed with suspicion sho is not interested in muktuk supper:
The two women looked at each other and shook their hands in astonishment at the idea of an Inupiaq man passing up a nice chunk of boiled bowhead whale skin with an inch or two of fat still on. “Not even if it’s fresh!” Arlene said.
A decade ago I would have thought a Presidential run or even a Vice-Presidental campaign by the fictional Suka or the real life Palin would not have been credible fiction but real life is incredible.
Suka, Palin in my mind, is a character who will endure in a reader’s memory. I hope she is a character in the next Active book. She is charismatic and unpredictable and beautiful. Best of all an author can put her in incredible situations and be believable because of the soap opera aspects to the lives of former Governor Palin and her family.
Tundra Kill deserves to be a bestseller.
Jones, Stan – (2009) - White Sky, Black Ice; (2010) - Shaman Pass; (2012) - "J" is for Stan Jones; (2013) - Frozen Sun; (2013) - Q & A with Stan Jones on Nathan Active and Napoleon "Bony" Bonaparte - Part I and Part II; (2015) - Village of the Ghost Bears; (2015) - Radio in Indigenous Mystery Series; Hardcover