Bear Witness (An Alaska Untamed Mystery)
by Lark O. Jensen
About Bear Witness
Bear Witness (An Alaska Untamed Mystery)
1st in Series
Setting – Alaska
Crooked Lane Books (May 10, 2022)
Hardcover : 320 pages
ISBN-10 : 1643858963
ISBN-13 : 978-1643858968
Digital ASIN : B09CD3RWVD
Alaska tour boat guide Stacie Calder faces the deep freeze in this scenic cozy series debut perfect for fans of Paige Shelton.
No nine-to-five cubicle career will suit Stacie Calder—the naturalist much prefers working in the great outdoors. Specifically, the spacious and spectacular Alaskan wilderness, whose rugged charms she shares with sightseers on the top deck of the tour boat where she works. But one May afternoon, Stacie’s passengers see more than glittering glaciers, frolicking harbor seals, climbing bears, and soaring seabirds…they also witness a man lying dead in the frigid Alaskan waters. And it seems likely that someone gave him a fatal push.
Stacie didn’t know the unfortunate victim, but he sure wanted to know a lot about her. He spent most of his final afternoon bombarding her with questions quite awkward to answer. And when he wasn’t in her hair, he was arguing incessantly with the boat’s beleaguered crew. Which makes for a suspect list about as long as the passenger manifest. Furthermore, as police helicopters relentlessly circle her boat in search of any clues, Stacie is shaken to find herself on that suspect list.
Before the tour boat reaches shore Stacie—accompanied by her beautiful blue-eyed husky, Sasha—must deduce just who sent the testy tourist tumbling into the turgid waters and have the authorities take custody. Because if she can’t, then the killer might aim a fatal ice-cold stare at Stacie.
Stacie Calder is a tour guide on the ClemElk, one of the Clem Tours fleet owned by the Clementoses. There are six boats in total, the ClemElk, the ClemWolf, the ClemBear, the ClemSeal, the ClemBison, and the ClemMoose. Each is piloted by a member of the Clementos family and hosts tours leaving from Juneau, Anchorage, and Skagway. Stacie is accompanied daily by her 2-year-old and very well-behaved Husky, Sasha.
One afternoon one of the tourists goes missing. He had spent most of the day questioning Stacie about everything under the sun so she became quite troubled when she couldn’t find him anywhere on the ship and he failed to disembark the ship when they got back to port. They had no choice but to report his disappearance to the authorities which brought in the Alaska State Troopers, Initial Response Team to the dock. Trooper Liam Amauri leads a team to investigate the man’s disappearance which means he will be traveling on the ClemElk and close to Stacie every day.
The next day the man’s body is found along the tour route in the icy water. Trooper Amauri considers the entire crew including Stacie a suspect. She volunteers to help with the investigation and surprisingly Liam accepts. They also accept there is romantic chemistry between them. But they need to focus on the case and catch the killer before he ices another victim . . . maybe Stacie herself!
Our protagonist, Stacie Calder’s life revolves around the job she loves, sharing her knowledge of wild animals and their habitats. Right now that includes the animals found in the Alaska wilderness on and around the panoramic glaciers. She strives to give her passengers the best experience she can. She is likable and friendly and takes great pride in what she does. She is also blessed to get to take her canine companion, Sasha to work with her every day. I love Sasha and loved that she played pivotal roles in the story.
We also meet Trooper Liam Amauri. He appears to be very smart and capable of investigating the murder but I felt he was going around in circles a lot. I was also surprised that a relationship evolved so quickly and before the case was solved.
The Clementos family and the crew of the ClemElk were also introduced. The Clementos family sounds like a great group of down-to-earth people all ready to work hard to keep the family business a highlight for visitors to Alaska. The crew all appear to love their jobs.
I feel like all the characters were introduced well but look forward to them being more fleshed out in future books. I think this is going to be a fun group.
Because of Stacie’s job and the tour boat setting, there was a bit of repetition. Most of the tourists were quickly eliminated as suspects so that truly just left the crew. Stacie and Liam had to go back every day to question the same people until someone let something slip or a new piece of information was revealed. The author kept the clues close to her vest throughout the whole story. I myself was going in circles trying to solve the mystery before the killer was revealed and I never settled in on any one person.
I was delighted by Ms. Jensen’s descriptions of Alaska. The trip to the Tracy Arm fjord and the strings of ice floes “bobbing in the water” with the harbor seals mamas sunning with their babies. It was easy to visualize the birds in the sky and the bears “lumbering at the foot of the craggy snow-dotted mountain and near the top a group of wolves. I know the author took time to research the area and all the animals found there because Stacie was a font of information about everything she saw and shared.
In Bear Witness, Ms. Jensen has built a great foundation for this series going forward. Her characters are unique and I want to get to know them better. Alaska is a fantastic setting too, so different from the lower 48 with its distinct way of life. A vast area that could contain all kinds of mysteries. I am curious to read about Stacie’s next adventure and see if she and Liam’s relationship continues.
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About Lark O. Jensen
Lark O. Jensen is the pseudonym of Linda O. Johnston, a former lawyer who is now a full-time writer. Lark has written Bear Witness, the first Alaska Untamed mystery for Crooked Lane. Linda has written the Barkery & Biscuits Mystery series and the Superstition Mysteries for Midnight Ink and the Pet Rescue Mysteries and Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime. Linda also writes for Harlequin Romantic Suspense, and her stories often involve dogs.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”