We start by facing the reality of a tragedy: a young woman bush pilot
has crashed her small plane on a mountain in Alaska... known as THE BIG EMPTY. While accidents
happen, and sometimes the relatives never get answers, one man is
determined to fly out to the site himself and see if any sabotage was
involved. Cowboy Decker has no reason for suspicion, just that he
taught Evie Kavoonah to fly and she was in his well-maintained plane.
The young Inupiat woman was engaged and expecting a baby, and she
and fiancé Dr. Todd Brenner were both killed.
Cowboy and his longtime pal Nathan Active head off for the weekend to
scout the site. Only, because Nathan is a family man, he has to bring
his wife Grace, who is expecting, and their adopted daughter Nita. They
refuse to be left out of the adventure. Nathan is Public Safety Director
for the borough, which seems to equal a police officer. The scenery is
majestic, the Arctic char fresh-caught and berries ripe. Downsides are
mosquitoes and bears, of course, plus the ever-present threat of bad
weather. We also learn about investigating a light plane crash and why
evidence of sabotage had been overlooked. A few aspects did puzzle
me, like why there was no permanent record of how much fuel went
into the plane tanks. Someone's got to pay for it, right?
Fans of the Kate Shugak series by Dana Stabenow will be familiar with
the setup, but this male investigator with his little family brings a great
many additional sidelights to life in Alaska, so I find it a welcome
addition. These aspects include tech smarts, veterans of desert wars
coming home to snow, and inevitable domestic violence cases, but we
also see teen hormones, pregnancy care, puppies and respect for
elders. The majority of the story is set around the investigation in the
town of Chukchi, where everyone knows everyone and newcomers have
relationships with locals, but those relationships don't always last.
Given the damage, we see caused by outside influences we can
appreciate the quiet of the dramatic countryside.
THE BIG EMPTY by Stan Jones and
Patricia Watts will absorb the reader in the search for answers, which is
also the search for justice. I'd be keen to read more books in the
Nathan Active series. This book is intended for adults, with some
strong language and adult scenes.
Police Chief Nathan Active investigates a plane crash out
in Alaska’s Big Empty—and what he finds there casts
suspicion of murder on several locals in his small town of
Evie Kavoonah, a young mother-to-be, and her fiancé, Dr.
Todd Brenner, are on a flight over the Brooks Range when
their bush plane runs out of gas and hits a ridge, instantly
killing them both. Chukchi police chief Nathan Active doubts
he’ll find anything amiss when his close friend, Cowboy
Decker, asks him to look into the possibility of foul play.
Evie was like a daughter to Cowboy, who trained her to fly,
and he insists there’s no way his protégée made a fatal
mistake that day. Nathan reluctantly plays along and
discovers that Cowboy’s instincts are correct—the
malfunction that led to the crash was carefully planned, and
several people in the village have motives for targeting the
Meanwhile, Nathan’s wife, Gracie, is pregnant, but so
scarred by memories of domestic abuse that she isn’t sure
she should have the baby. Nathan must support her and their
adopted daughter, Nita, while managing an increasingly
complex and dangerous murder case.