An offbeat, often hilarious crime novel set in the sleepy Alaskan town of Cold Storage from the Shamus Award winning author of the Cecil Younger series.
Cold Storage, Alaska, is a remote fishing outpost where salmonberries sparkle in the morning frost and where you just might catch a King Salmon if you’re zen enough to wait for it. Settled in 1935 by Norse fishermen who liked to skinny dip in its natural hot springs, the town enjoyed prosperity at the height of the frozen fish boom. But now the cold storage plant is all but abandoned and the town is withering.
Clive “The Milkman” McCahon returns to his tiny Alaska hometown after a seven-year jail stint for dealing coke. He has a lot to make up to his younger brother, Miles, who has dutifully been taking care of their ailing mother. But Clive doesn’t realize the trouble he’s bringing home. His vengeful old business partner is hot on his heels, a stick-in-the-mud State Trooper is dying to bust Clive for narcotics, and, to complicate everything, Clive might be going insane—lately, he’s been hearing animals talking to him. Will his arrival in Cold Storage be a breath of fresh air for the sleepy, depopulated town? Or will Clive’s arrival turn the whole place upside down?
The youngest of five children, John Straley was born in Redwood City, California, in 1953. He received a BA in English from the University of Washington and, at the urging of his parents, a certificate of completion in horse shoeing. John never saw himself living in Alaska (where there are no horses left to shoe), but when his wife, Jan, a prominent whale biologist, announced she was taking a job in Sitka, the two headed north and never left. John worked for thirty years as a criminal defense investigator in Sitka, and many of the characters that fill his books were inspired by his work. Now retired, he lives with his wife in a bright green house on the beach and writes in his weather-tight office overlooking Old Sitka Rocks. The former Writer Laureate of Alaska, he is the author of ten novels.
Cold Storage, Alaska 4.8 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
Winter sets in long, cold, and lonely in Cold Storage, Alaska, but Straley sets us up with a comic narrative that takes most of the vinegar out of the population of “drunks and depressives” and sweetens it with romance. He introduces us to a fiercely independent and strangely cohesive group of folks who laugh (and make us laugh) in the face of adversity and who create the conditions for generosity of spirit. But not all is feasting on “King Salmon Every Day.” It continually astonishes me that characters in a fiction can make one feel actual sorrow and sadness, but we do in this one. Everything is going swimmingly and then something truly dreadful happens.
It is the year 2000 and Clive is thirty-five years old. He is being released from a seven-year prison stint in Seattle. After a brief detour to eat a fresh lettuce salad, Clive goes to collect his share of criminal proceeds from his pre-incarceration drug sales days. He is aiming for a small coastal town in Alaska where his brother, Miles, and his mother still reside.
Cold Storage is a failing fishing village of 150 residents on the outer coast of southeastern Alaska, originally settled by Norwegian fisherman who felt at home in the steep-sided fjord-like bay: “She’s hell for snug except when it’s coming straight down.” Some of my favorite passages in this novel come when Straley is describing the surrounding countryside, the changing quality of the water, the luminescent sky, the ragged rim of trees.
This novel is a little hard to characterize. It is not mystery, but it could be romance, though it is an unusual example of the genre. Falling in love is no more remarkable in Cold Storage than falling out of love. Both provide important entertainment to residents even when they themselves are not directly involved, except perhaps through the placing of bets on the timing of who is falling in or out of bed with whom...
No, this is a crime novel, though law enforcement is rarely in sight, and is the butt of jokes when it does come calling. This story is all about the ‘crims’ and their extended family of friends and partners in crime. We empathize with these oddball characters, many of whom act much as we have done (though we don’t wish to admit or recall), and all of whom change in the year or so since we meet them.
Straley claims in interviews “…I do not recognize revenge as the lifeblood of a great plot,” but he introduces a little revenge in this novel that upends his screwball comedy and changes lives forever. Straley then tells us his secret: “I still believe that love and compassion are what move through the hearts of all great characters.” And that’s exactly what we like about them.
More than 1 year ago
Cold Storage, AL, the town, is itself one of the memorable characters in this genre-bending crime novel. Its plot twists and turns are unexpected, the characters are unpredictable, and the humor is offcenter in the best of ways.
More than 1 year ago
Post script from author mentioned this is actually the first book in
a series. It was published 2nd.
'The big both ways', book 2, is next for me. GOod author!
Many of the earliest books, particularly those dating back to the 1900s and before, are
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