Summary and book reviews of Village of the Ghost Bears by Stan Jones

Village of the Ghost Bears

A Nathan Active Mystery

By Stan Jones

Village of the Ghost Bears
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  • Hardcover: Dec 2009,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2011,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

Alaska State Trooper Nathan Active must figure out what connects a dead hunter on a remote Arctic lake with a year-old fatal plane crash in the Brooks Range and a fire at the Chukchi Recreation Center that killed eight people, including the town's basketball star. The case turns out to involve a lucrative polar bear poaching operation and the intense bond between a brother and sister from the village of Cape Goodwin, famous in the Arctic for twins, polar bears, and schizophrenia. The heart of the matter, he discovers, is a dead woman whose killer remembers her as having a mouth so sweet "it was like kissing a Hershey bar."

Chapter One

“See why they call it One-Way Lake?”

Cowboy Decker rolled the Super Cub into a slow arc as Alaska State Trooper Nathan Active peered over Grace Palmer’s shoulder. One-Way Lake was a blue teardrop cupped in the foothills of the Brooks Range, with caribou trails lacing the ridges on either side. The outlet, One- Way Creek, lined with stunted black spruce and a few cottonwoods gone gold, threaded south across the rusting fall tundra toward the Isignaq River. At the lake’s head, wavelets licked a fan-shaped talus under a steep slope of gray-brown shale. More caribou trails cut across its face.

Grace was wearing the intercom headset, so Active was obliged to shout at the back of the pilot’s head. “Looks pretty tight,” he said.

“Yep,” Cowboy shouted back. “One way in, one way out. You land toward the cliff and take off going away.”

Active lifted one of the headset cups away from Grace’s ear. “What ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

The series has many fans, and for good reason. The novel isn't just a mystery about who started a fatal fire, it's also a source of insight into the lives and culture of Native Americans in Northwest Alaska... If you have enjoyed the previous books, you will probably enjoy this one. If you are new to the series, and want to learn about Inupiat culture through these books, I recommend starting with one of the earlier books so that you don't feel too lost in the beginning of this volume.   (Reviewed by Cindy Anderson).

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Media Reviews
Booklist

Recommend this one to anyone who enjoys a stylishly written, solidly plotted mystery

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. His sympathetic portrayal of Alaska's mixed-ethnic traditions is a tribute to both the state and the states of mind it inspires.

School Library Journal

Jones provides a unique look at the Alaskan landscape and reveals many of the racial tensions that still exist in this part of the world. Ghost Bears leaves readers looking forward to the next "Nathan Active" installment.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Multilayered characters and an offbeat setting authentically rendered-Jones...bids fair to become the Tony Hillerman of Alaska.

Library Journal

Readers get a crash course in living in remote Alaska and a mighty fine mystery as well...this series should get more exposure than it does.

The New York Times - Marilyn Stasio

A writer of muscular words and stark images, Jones sets up his scenes like film shots...[t]his kind of writing makes for strong reading, especially with a sturdy murder plot to give it structure.

Entertainment Weekly

Jones delivers a finely laddered plot...but the real fun, as always, lies in the dozens of mini-lessons he gives on hardscrabble Alaskan life, covering everything from the illegal trade in polar-bear bladders to the description of a potent indigenous chewing tobacco made from burnt birch-tree fungus.

Entertainment Weekly

Stan Jones delivers a finely laddered plot... but the real fun, as always, lies in the dozens of mini-lessons he gives on hardscrabble Alaskan life.

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Beyond the Book

In Village of the Ghost Bears, Trooper Nathan Active and his fellow law enforcement personnel must discuss the problem of polar bear poaching, because at least one of the suspects in the arson/murder has been involved in the illegal trade of selling polar bear gallbladders to China...

The Value of Bear Gallbladders
As the book correctly explains, gallbladder bile is highly prized in Chinese medicine. It is considered to be a cure for everything from fever and rheumatism to poor eyesight. Illegal trade exists between Alaska and Korea, and between Alaska and Russia (for eventual sale to China), and it is a lucrative enterprise. The Humane Society of America's website states: "The sum of saleable parts can make a dead bear worth in ...

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