commissaire inspector dottore
a bibliography of detective-inspector novels
the nathan active seriesWhite Sky, Black Ice. New York: Soho, 1999.
∴ Weißer Himmel, schwarzes Eis. Translated by Dirk Löwenberg. Zürich: Unionsverlag, 2000.
∴ Cielo bianco, ghiaccio nero. Translated by Lydia Lax. Milano: Mondadori, 2000.
∴ L'homme qui tue les gens. Translated by Frédéric Grellier. Paris: Éditions du Masque, 2015.
Shaman Pass. New York: Soho, 2003.
∴ Schamanenpass. Translated by Peter Friedrich. Zürich: Unionsverlag, 2004.
Frozen Sun. Anchorage: Bowhead, 2008.
Village of the Ghost Bears. New York: Soho, 2009.
Tundra Kill. Anchorage: Bowhead, 2016.
Stan Jones' Nathan Active series shows a distinct quality arc. It peaks with the third entry (Frozen Sun) and starts heading downward again. Fortunately it starts really high – Frozen Sun is to my mind one of the best English-language Krimis of the 21st century – and one has no problem spending more time with Jones' characters, even in more minor entries in the series.
Jones' setting and characters are an ideal venue for some political satire. Tundra Kill is set nine years after Sarah Palin's run for the vice presidency. Palin, never named, is apparently a thing of the past. The new governor of Alaska is Helen Mercer, "Helen Wheels" of high-school basketball fame, a former mayor of Chukchi itself. She is a rock-ribbed Republican, cynically displaying all the correct right-wing values while being a bit of a personal libertine and quite possibly an accessory to murder. Her husband is an outdoorsy doofus. The couple shows up in Chukchi for a dogsled race, and Mercer claims Active as her personal bodyguard – to the point of insisting on sleeping in a tent with him in the wilderness, setting herself up as a latterday Potiphar's Wife.
Nathan Active has been having relationship issues with his fierce flame Grace Palmer. Mercer's arrival in Chukchi doesn't make things easier between them. Tundra Kill swings back and forth from wacky political satire, some quite well-aimed, to romantic musing, to elemental angst about survival in unforgiving Alaskan conditions.
Ultimately the novel becomes a fairly Byzantine legal thriller of sorts. Paternity suits, vendettas, influence-wielding, corruption, and national ambitions cloud Active's investigation. He's a more senior officer now, a true detective-inspector. He is wedged between the trooper commander Carnaby, and of course his own governor, above, and his office staff, including cop Alan Young and his secretary (and ex-girlfriend) the former Lucy Generous on the other. And Active is still caught between the white and native worlds. Tundra Kill is still quality entertainment, even if the plot labors a little and the book lacks the sharpness of its predecessors.