By Iris Yamashita; reviewed by Jeannette Hartman
When Anchorage Police Det. Cara Kennedy learns that three high school students have discovered a severed hand and foot in a cove near Point Mettier, she immediately goes to investigate.
Cara’s husband and young son had vanished on a hiking trip a year earlier. Months later, a forest fire revealed the remains of an adult male and a child. DNA test proved them to be Cara’s husband and son. Their bones were scattered about the area. By the fire, animals or the killer, it was impossible to tell.
Cara’s obsession with her husband’s and son’s deaths and her desperate need to know their killer has led to her being put on leave. But she tells the Point Mettier police chief and his deputy that she’s the “follow-up team.”
The person officially charged with investigating the situation, Officer Neworth, believes the severed hand and foot were those of someone who fell off a tourist ship — or jumped. The fact that these weren’t the first severed limbs to be discovered along the Alaskan coast remains unexplained.
To get to Point Mettier, Cara has to drive through a two-and-a-half mile long, one-way tunnel, where traffic switches directions every half hour. Now that it’s winter, traffic is not a concern, but a blizzard is coming. Cara needs to ask her questions and leave before it arrives.
In the summer, Point Mettier draws tourists wanting a closer view of Sanders Glacier across the inlet. But now the fishing boats and yachts are docked; the restaurants and snack shops closed; and the souvenir booths and gift shops shuttered with the approach of eight months of subzero temperatures.
In the winter, Point Mettier becomes a city under one roof. Its 205 full-time residents live at the “Dave-Co,” short for Davidson condominiums. Dave-Co also includes a post office, a church, an infirmary and a general store.
Once, the city was a military post with a bowling alley, an auditorium, a movie theater and an indoor pool. That was all destroyed in a 1964 earthquake. Tunnels remain and house the community’s school.
Few residents stay more than two years. As far as high school student Amy Linn is concerned, “the only real reason they moved out there was because they were running from somebody or something.”
Cara doesn’t make it out before the blizzard hits. The extra time she has in Point Mettier enables her to find a severed head buried in a stable and to help Police Chief Sipley and his deputy Joe Barkowski search for a missing high school teacher and her two sons.
Author Iris Yamashita tells this story from alternating characters’ view points: Cara; Amy, daughter of the owner of the town’s only Chinese restaurant and one of the high school students who found the body parts; and Lonnie, survivor of an abusive childhood and a long stay in a psychiatric hospital. Lonnie is the town’s eccentric and cares for an orphaned moose she leads around town on a leash.
The real draw of this book is its setting based on the real city of Whittier, AK. The isolation and unusual lifestyle of this community draw many odd people with secret pasts. The mystery has overtones of a “locked room,” although technically it’s neither fully locked nor a room. The circumstances create a wealth of suspects and red herrings.
There are signs that this could turn into a series featuring Cara and Deputy Sheriff Joe Barkowski.
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The Author: Iris Yamashita
Iris Yamashita wrote the script for Clint Eastwood’s “Letters from Iwo Jima” (2006), which was nominated for four Oscars, including “Best Picture” and “Best Original Screenplay.”
She studied engineering at the Universities of California at San Diego and Berkeley and spent a year at the University of Tokyo studying virtual reality.
Her first love was always fiction writing, which she pursued as a hobby. She submitted her first screenplay to a competition where she came to the attention of an agent at the Creative Artists Agency (CAA) who offered to represent her.
CITY UNDER ONE ROOF is her first novel.She continues to work in Hollywood and has taught screenwriting at UCLA and the American Film Institute.
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