Tuesday, June 23, 2009

a review of Murder on the Yukon Quest

Murder on The Yukon Quest; An Alaska Mystery by Sue Henry (Harper Collins, ISBN 9780380788644)

Yes, I think I may have mentioned that I returned a short time ago from a trip to Alaska, both the coast and the interior and the Canadian Yukon Territory. Yes, I believe I have...lol
And I hate to say it folks, but I am afraid that my readers, both of you, may have to put up with some Alaska related books in the near future. I will try to make it up to you by posting a few photos that may have some tie in. So we will start with a mystery book purchased on the trip, my personal weakness where books are involved. I promised myself I was not going to buy any more books on the trip, since as I approached the end of it, I had bought about 6 and was really getting concerned about the weight of my luggage. But when I saw this one in the bookstore, I could not pass it up. I had read a number of Sue Henry's book before with their Alaska setting and their dog musher heroine Jessie Arnold and her Alaska State Police boyfriend and I have always found them an entertaining read. On the Alaskan Railroad trip up from Anchorage to Denali, I passed through the town of Wasilla, not far from where Jessie and her dogs live. You might also recognize the name of the town as the home of another woman in the news quite a bit in the last year or two, yes, the governor of Alaska.

Then, while in the Fairbanks area, we had a chance to meet the musher David Monson, the widower of Susan Butcher, the famous four time winner of the Iditarod dog race. We saw his kennel there and a team of his sled dogs in action, pulling him on a motorless ATV as they do in the summer for training. I was also very happy to be able to get an autographed copy of the children's book Granite, about her wonderful lead dog, that he and Susan wrote...but that is for another day.What was most interesting was how much these dogs love to be teamed up and run and how amazingly strong and fast they are. And of course, how terribly cute the puppies are!

But most of all, I had to buy this particular book because it has as it's backdrop the Yukon Quest race and I was, for the later part of the trip, in the very Yukon Quest territory. The 1000 mile dog sled race is run every February from Fairbanks Alaska, over the Top of The World Highway, to Dawson City, famous for it's Gold Rush history along the Yukon River and finally ending in Whitehorse, Canada, reversing direction of the race every years. From the official web site, "The Yukon Quest Trail follows historic Gold Rush and Mail Delivery dog sled routes from the turn of the 20th Century. Once the transportation “highways” of the Northern frontier, the Yukon Quest Trail now only comes alive during February when the frosty breath and haunting howls of hundreds of sled dogs return to these historic routes. Dog teams consisting of one human 'musher' and their 14 canine athletes, travel for two weeks, racing across some of the last pristine wilderness remaining in North America."
See, I was in every one of those places! I was, in fact, at the Yukon Quest headquarters at the old train station in Whitehorse. How could I possible pass it up? Although, as I have said, I rarely read on a vacation, I was done this one before I got on the plane back home.

While I love the characters in Ms.Henry's books, the plots, quite honestly, tend to be a wee bit predicable and if you have read a few of them, the path that this installment takes will not be a huge surprise. In the midst of the race, one of the musher is kidnapped and held for ransom, and our heroine is drawn into the drama when the kidnappers demand that she alone deliver the money on one of the most dangerous legs of the trek. There will be wild weather, brave, intelligent dogs and dastardly deeds without question with an always entertaining cast of characters.

But for me, the most enjoyable part of the books in this series has always been their setting in the wilds of Alaska and all the fascinating knowledge they give about the sport of dog racing and the history and culture of dog sledding in Alaska. I will give my opinion then, with just a little bit of first hand knowledge, that Henry gets the feel of this background just right. It was very interesting to read a story set in the very places you are visiting and following the same route that you were driving every day...granted in a comfortable vehicle, in the mild and green landscape of summer instead of the frozen rivers, blizzard blown mountains and -40 degree temperatures of the book. That part we can only imagine, with Henry's skillful help.
Alaska is a wild and mysterious place, full of huge mountains, countless rivers and vast amounts of land that makes a wonderful setting for an entertaining mystery.


  1. This sounds like the perfect book for you right now. Thanks for sharing the beautiful pictures - you need to frame the last one.

  2. it was..perfect book for the time and place.

    that last picture looks fake, but I assure you it is real and I took it...really..lol


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