The Life and Times of Nathan Active

Nathan Active is an Inupiat Eskimo and borough police chief who patrols the coldest beat in America: The tiny Inupiat village of Chukchi and the surrounding region, located on the windswept shores of the Chukchi Sea somewhere north of the Arctic Circle.

Nathan, though born in Chukchi, was adopted out as a baby and raised in Anchorage by two white schoolteachers. He grew up resenting his birth mother for sending him away and, based on a few brief visits with his adoptive parents, loathing the the village where he was born.

So, when the Alaska State Troopers posted him to Chukchi for his very first assignment after completing his training, it comes as a most unwelcome shock.

The Nathan Active stories describe not only his efforts to solve the peculiarly Arctic crimes that cross the police blotters in Chukchi , but also his struggle to come to terms with his complex identity as both an insider and an outsider in the village where he's called naluaqmiiyaaq -- an Inupiaq word meaning "almost white." Over time, he grows to understand his birth village, finds love, and settles into Chukchi for good by leaving the Troopers for the job of Director of Public Safety for the Chukchi Borough.

The Nathan Active Series

Seven Nathan Active mysteries have been published. For readers new to the series, here are the books in order of appearance:

White Sky, Black Ice: In his first big case with the Troopers, Nathan comes to suspect that the suicides of two Chukchi villagers aren't suicides at all, but murders intended to cover up environmental crimes. He solves the mystery, but not without a little help from a bingo-loving aana, or Inupiat grandma.

Shaman Pass: The return of an ancient mummy to Chukchi triggers a murder that leads Nathan to the mummy's original burial site in Shaman Pass, a spot so wild, remote, and forbidding that the winds there are said to kill caribou.

Frozen Sun: At the request of a despairing mother, Nathan reluctantly sets out to find Grace Palmer, a long-lost village beauty whom he knows only from her pictures. He ends up face to face with an agonizing question:  Is Grace Palmer dead, or is the woman with whom he’s falling in love a cold-blooded killer? His drive to find the answer will cost him his relationship with his longtime girlfriend and nearly destroy his career before he finally solves the mystery of the haunted and haunting Grace Palmer.

Village of the Ghost Bears: A fire kills eight people at Chukchi's recreation center and there are almost no clues as to who set it, or why. A state arson investigator who flies into the village to sift through the ashes gives Nathan a piece of advice that turns out to be prophetic: "Find out who he was after, and you'll find out who he is." Before he can do that, Nathan must untangle a baffling web of connections involving outlaw Bush pilots, the illicit trade in polar bear gall bladders, and a schizophrenic poacher who claims to be channeling the spirit of his dead twin sister.

Tundra Kill: Nathan is now fully settled in Chukchi. He's left the Troopers to become head of the local borough public safety department, and is about to move in with the love of his life, Grace Palmer.

Then, suddenly, he finds himself caught up in a nightmare case. He must figure out what links Alaska’s gorgeous female governor to a dog musher killed by a snowmobile. His career is on the line as he’s plunged into the bizarre family dynamics and out-sized political ambitions of the most dangerous woman he ever met.

The action starts when Nathan is drafted as bodyguard for Governor Helen Mercer when she visits her home town to watch her half-Eskimo husband run the fabled Isignaq 400 sled dog race.

Before it’s over, the governor’s ruthless machinations to preserve her political viability and stay out of jail will threaten not only Grace Palmer, but Nathan’s career as well. To close the case, he must walk a tightrope between personal ethics, professional survival, and protecting the woman he loves.

The Big Empty: 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 Chukchi.

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 pair.

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.

Ghost Light: With the help of an Alaska Native grandmother suffering from dementia, Chukchi police chief Nathan Active hunts down the killer who hid a woman’s expertly dismembered body in the ice cellar of an abandoned Inupiat fish camp. The investigation pulls Active into a dark tangle of love and jealousy, even as he struggles with the PTSD that has haunted him since being wounded in a shootout in an earlier case. (Scheduled for publication Sept. 15, 2021.)

Do I have to read the series in publication order?
Definitely not! Each Nathan Active novel is a fascinating self-contained mystery that incorporates enough background on the colorful characters of Chukchi and the exotic Arctic setting to be read without reference to its predecessors. Start with whichever title you find most intriguing!

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