Friday, December 16, 2022

Winter's End (Alaska Wild #4) by Paige Shelton: Reading Room Review


The Alaska Wild series by Paige Shelton is not a survivalist series, and, yet it is. This mystery/crime series set in the isolated small town of Benedict, Alaska presents a challenge where every person who lives there must respect the weather and the terrain to survive. It’s not a place for the faint of heart. It’s smart living, without smart devices. Cell phone reception is spotty and there are only a few landlines in the town. It’s a good place to get lost, or rather not be found. Beth Rivers has been counting on the isolation of Benedict to protect her from a man who kidnapped, tortured, and intended to kill her back in her home state of Missouri. That man, Travis Walker, is still on the loose and eluding the authorities. Beth has gone from her persona as best-selling mystery writer Elizabeth Fairchild to just plain Beth Rivers, another seeker of anonymity in the wilds of Alaska. Only a few people in Benedict know of her background, with just as few outside of Benedict knowing her where-abouts. In Winter’s End, Beth is seeing shadows of a man whom she fears may be her worst nightmare come to claim her.

Beth has made it through her first winter in Benedict, and it’s now springtime, the time residents do the “Death Walk” to determine who has and hasn’t been smart and lucky enough to have another winter under their belt. Although it sounds like a morbid event, it’s a time for the community to gather and see one another, after a long time of being confined to their homes. Most see it as a celebratory time. Even people who are reclusive, deliberately living away from everyone else, come to check in. Two such reclusive families are the Oliphants and the Millers, families who live in the same area of outlying wilderness and who have feuded for years. Beth knows one of the Millers, Kaye, as Beth had given Kaye one of her friend Elijah’s sled dogs when he suddenly left Benedict months before. Beth had been on a walk with Kaye and their dogs just the previous day.

On “Death Walk Day,” the residents of the town and the area arrive in Benedict and check their names off a printed list. When it appears all residents who are going to show up have, the list is perused for names left unchecked, and those people’s homes, either in town or out in the country, are visited by groups to determine their well-being. The first person found missing was 94-year-old Al, who lived by himself in an isolated cabin. Beth and Orin, the town librarian (and much more) discovered Al in his cabin but not in the best of shape. When Orin goes back to town to get help in bringing Al down the mountain to see the doctor, Orin disappears.

The other person missing on “Death Walk Day” is Warren Miller, Kaye’s husband. It’s shortly determined that his wife Kaye is also missing, and her name was checked off on the list by someone else, person unknown. When one of these two ends up murdered, a tragic story of hate and love must be untangled, and Beth is right in the middle of untangling it. Beth had unofficially worked with her grandfather in law enforcement in Missouri before he died and she started her writing career, and she had a special gift for reading a criminal scene. She’s also trying to solve the mystery of where Orin is and what he’s up to. Then, there’s another curiosity in the story, a male parolee staying at the Benedict House where Beth rents a room from Viola, the manager and person overseeing the half-way house. This is the first time a male has ever stayed there, as it’s supposed to be a half-way house for female non-violent convicts. But, he seems like a nice guy and can cook like nobody’s business.

So, there’s lots of intrigue and mystery in this latest book of the Alaska Wild series. It never seems disjointed though. It’s a smooth series of events that all end up sorted, with plenty of surprises. Paige Shelton has created and developed quite a few interesting characters for this series, and readers will learn backgrounds of several in this story that explain their current set of circumstances. Beth will personally receive a couple of big shocks that the readers will enjoy. I am wondering if the series will last much longer with the amount of plot and character forward movement here, but there is certainly room for Beth to have more mysteries to solve and more personal growth to experience. I know that I’m hoping to read many more stories in this favorite series, as I love the Alaska setting and the community of Benedict I’ve gotten to know.

Thanks to NetGalley and Minotaur Books for an advanced copy of Winter’s End.

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