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Old 04-19-2017, 11:46 PM   #1
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April 2017 Discussion: A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow (spoilers)

The time has come to discuss the April 2017 MobileRead Book Club selection, A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow. What did you think?
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Old 04-19-2017, 11:58 PM   #2
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I'll be joining this discussion late this month as life (and bad planning on my part) interfered with my finishing this book in time for the discussion. In the meantime I'll be avoiding this thread for the next couple of days or so to keep from viewing the spoilers.

Carry on!
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Old 04-20-2017, 04:29 AM   #3
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I absolutely loved this book. Normally mobileread recommendations are 50/50 efficient for me. And the book of the month is usually unreadable. But A Cold Day For Murder is a great find. There are a dozen or more sequels and I'm going to read every single one of them, until they lose their charm or something. I want to say a big thank you to those of you who voted this book as the BOTM.
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Old 04-20-2017, 10:12 AM   #4
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Oh, I'm so glad, Luffy. That was one reason I nominated it. There are actually 20 sequels to the book, if you count the one that will be out in early May. From an Audible perspective, almost all of them are available, and they're read by Marguerite Gavin, who does an excellent job.

In my personal opinion, the books develop more depth over time as characters mature and we learn more about them. It's not always an easy path, with some key characters getting killed off along the way, but overall a very satisfying series. Yes, it's fiction, and yes, we're reading a murder mystery, but the sense of place is very real and compelling throughout.

FWIW, I just finished a re-read of my absolute favourite in the series, Breakup. (Number 7, chronologically.)
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Old 04-20-2017, 10:41 AM   #5
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I'm glad, too. It will take me some time to reach book 19-20, but it's heartening that there are consequences to what happens primordially. A Cold Day For Murder took me from a reading slump, and now I'm psyched to read all the follow-ups.
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Old 04-20-2017, 12:00 PM   #6
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I have only read this one but I have read it twice now. I really liked it the first time through but for me it isn't nearly as satisfying to re-read.

I did enjoy the characters and completely agree on the sense of place but knowing the end really made it less enjoyable.

For those who enjoy this series, the Liam Campbell series is also a good series to look into. The first book is also free at her website.
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Old 04-20-2017, 12:17 PM   #7
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I can but echo the comments above that it's the evocation of place that makes this a standout. Wilderness Alaska was as much or more so a character in the books as any of the people.

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In my personal opinion, the books develop more depth over time as characters mature and we learn more about them.
Glad to hear it, as I felt that not atypically for a first-in-a-series, the characters were frequently painted with pretty broad brush strokes, placeholders for more nuanced characters down the line. I did like the sense of Alaska (the Last Frontier) as being the place where misfits from outside fetched up and managed to fit in.
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Old 04-21-2017, 01:30 AM   #8
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I have only read this one but I have read it twice now. I really liked it the first time through but for me it isn't nearly as satisfying to re-read.

I did enjoy the characters and completely agree on the sense of place but knowing the end really made it less enjoyable.

For those who enjoy this series, the Liam Campbell series is also a good series to look into. The first book is also free at her website.
I did a re-read before I nominated it, but it was from a long time ago. I don't really remember when we started reading this series, but it was a while ago because it was on Books-on-Tape, which has been dead for years. But on the re-read I did notice things I missed the first time through.

I also really appreciated the excellent job Marguerite Gavin did as narrator. Though at least one proper name was not pronounced as I would have.
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Old 04-21-2017, 03:30 PM   #9
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I can but echo the comments above that it's the evocation of place that makes this a standout. Wilderness Alaska was as much or more so a character in the books as any of the people.
Thank you for that comment, it's perfect. Yes, the Alaskan wilderness/national park is exactly like another character in the book, I think that's a perfect description. And it's something that continues in all the books -- the environment and place of the books plays a starring role throughout. Whether it's the Park itself, or a crabbing boat or the oil fields, what Dana Stabenow gives us is a tremendous sense of place and time. The actual murder almost takes second place to where it happens.

When we get to the 7th book, Breakup, it's less about the specific place, than the nature of that particular time of the year when the first signs of spring are causing the ice and snow to melt, the days are getting longer, and people who've survived the cold, dark winter come out of their hunkered down survival mode and go somewhat crazy. But again, we have that same sense that the time and place are as much a protagonist as Kate and Mutt.
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Old 04-23-2017, 07:59 AM   #10
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I've been on a crime spree lately, reading Donald Westlake, Richard Stark, Carl Hiaasen and Eric Ambler and this book suffers by comparison. But I wouldn't be adverse to reading another, maybe later book. What's your favorite in the series?
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Old 04-23-2017, 11:33 AM   #11
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I have multiple favourites, but if I had to pick one, it would probably be Breakup. It's not the best "mystery" in the series, but it's a great farce and a lot of fun to read.

FWIW, I find the series grows and develops over time, and the characters (including the Alaskan wilderness) broaden and deepen. The series has legs, and doesn't depend on the same old memes every time.
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Old 04-23-2017, 12:05 PM   #12
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I've been on a crime spree lately, reading Donald Westlake, Richard Stark, Carl Hiaasen and Eric Ambler and this book suffers by comparison. But I wouldn't be adverse to reading another, maybe later book. What's your favorite in the series?
I get this. The mystery element wasn't all that captivating, but in a way, that heightened the sense of reality. I thought the dialogue enhanced this feeling, fairly staccato and frequently going over the same ground. That's how conversations go and that's how investigations run. The necessary info dumps were pretty organic as well.

That said, I wish Strabenow hadn't gone for the trope where the confessed murderer is left with a gun. That one worked in the Golden Age; I don't think it works now. For one thing, it's tired; for another, it's too easy and there are real-life consequences for that sort of behavior now, most especially in the context of an official investigation. I'd have preferred to have seen Kate have to deal with the fallout, emotional and otherwise, of an arrest and trial.
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Old 04-23-2017, 12:39 PM   #13
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That said, I wish Strabenow hadn't gone for the trope where the confessed murderer is left with a gun. That one worked in the Golden Age; I don't think it works now. For one thing, it's tired; for another, it's too easy and there are real-life consequences for that sort of behavior now, most especially in the context of an official investigation. I'd have preferred to have seen Kate have to deal with the fallout, emotional and otherwise, of an arrest and trial.
FWIW, that happens in some, including the results of a failed trial. But I get your point.
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Old 04-24-2017, 10:08 AM   #14
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I enjoyed the book, and I found it interesting the author touched on several things relevant to people living in Alaska that I hadn't really considered. One of which was the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971 where the Unitied States government basically bought the native Alaskan tribal hunting grounds in order to put in oil pipeline.

I got the sense the ANCSA had a largely negative impact in that it seemed to create a divide between natives and "outsiders", which led to some racism aspects in the book against the Aleut people (Aleuts are just one of many Alaskan native tribes from what I've read).

Do you think the ANCSA was ultimately a good thing for the native people, or bad? Should the "advantages" continue for natives?
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Old 04-24-2017, 11:43 AM   #15
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I enjoyed the book, and I found it interesting the author touched on several things relevant to people living in Alaska that I hadn't really considered. One of which was the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971 where the Unitied States government basically bought the native Alaskan tribal hunting grounds in order to put in oil pipeline.

I got the sense the ANCSA had a largely negative impact in that it seemed to create a divide between natives and "outsiders", which led to some racism aspects in the book against the Aleut people (Aleuts are just one of many Alaskan native tribes from what I've read).

Do you think the ANCSA was ultimately a good thing for the native people, or bad? Should the "advantages" continue for natives?
ANCSA is a recurring theme in the books, since it plays such a central role in the lives of First Nations in the state.

Do I think it's a good thing? Honestly, not my place to say or judge. Only those directly affected have that right. That being said, it's certainly worth observing that it has had far reaching impacts on First Nations in Alaska. Some probably beneficial, but others much less so. What can be said for sure is that the impact of ANCSA is, and has been, profound. As an outsider and a non-native, I honestly don't have the lens to judge what's beneficial or not.
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