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23 december 2022
Nathan Active returned in 2020 to Chukchi, detecting, and Bowhead Press with the mystery Ghost Light, a tightly-plotted adventure by creator Stan Jones and his recent collaborator Patricia Watts.
Ghost Light hinges on a very 21st-century impasse. A young woman has been killed, her body dumped in "Tent City" outside of Chukchi and left to scavengers and the extreme seasons. Shalene Harvey, the victim, was at the apex of a romantic triangle involving two of her north-shore oil-industry co-workers, Josh McCarran and Kim Tulimaq. On Josh's phone, the last message from Shalene says that she's leaving him for Kim. On Kim's phone, the last message from Shalene says that she's leaving her for Josh. The killer evidently forged both messages using the dead woman's phone – but the clues are so perfectly balanced that it's anybody's guess which of the two of them did it.
Or was there a third? Several present themselves in the course of Nathan's investigation, and the reader keeps expecting a twist. Of course in such a knotty problem, any ending would be a twist, and you get no indication from me which way this plot wends.
I hope that Jones and Watts will write more Nathan Active mysteries. I do not know how they divide the work on those they've shared (Ghost Light and its excellent precursor The Big Empty). But however it breaks down, it works well, and there are several interesting paths forward in Nathan Active's long arc by the end of Ghost Light.
Jones, Stan, and Patricia Watts. Ghost Light. Anchorage: Bowhead, 2020.