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Lost Angel: A Nik Kane Alaska Mystery    by Mike Doogan order for
Lost Angel
by Mike Doogan
Order:  USA  Can
Putnam, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Fifty-five year old Nik Kane has been a life-long resident of Alaska. Having spent twenty-five years in law enforcement with the Anchorage Police Department, with more than half of that as a detective, Nik found himself on the wrong side of the law when he was wrongfully charged, convicted, and imprisoned for seven years; eventually cleared of the trumped up manslaughter charge, Nik still has plenty of scars (both of the figurative and literal variety) left over from his experiences behind bars.

Now, even though much of the rest of his life is still pretty shaky, Nik is reinventing himself as a private investigator. And so it is that Nik now finds himself in the remote community of Rejoice where he has been hired to find a missing person.

Nik soon discovers that Rejoice is not your typical isolated Alaskan village, of which there are thousands, because this community is populated exclusively by profoundly religious people who faithfully follow their leader Elder Moses Wright. The 230 residents of Rejoice - not so endearingly called Angels by many of the people in the nearby mining community of Devil's Toe - live an austere life and eschew many of the so-called comforts of what Elder Moses Wright sees as a corrupt and sinfully seductive modern world.

Nik enters into the hermetic world of Rejoice - having been hired by Elder Thomas Wright, son of the community's leader - to find Thomas's seventeen year old daughter, Faith. She has been gone from Rejoice for nearly a week, and as Nik and any other professional knows only too well, each passing hour in a missing person's absence adds up to an ever-growing probability of a tragic outcome.

But as Nik begins making inquiries, he finds himself rapidly running into obstacles, distractions, surprises, and deadly dangers.

Elder Moses Wright, for some reason, very much objects to the outsider Nik being involved in what the missing girl's grandfather sees as a private family problem. Meanwhile, at nearby Devil's Toe, an anonymous informant inexplicably gives Nik $15,000 and what seems to be important photographic information about the problems and secrets at Rejoice. Making matters more complicated, some very unsavory characters - all of the same family - may be involved in some rather sordid activities, and - more importantly - they may know something about Faith's disappearance and whereabouts, but they certainly aren't interested in talking to Nik. Then, as if things haven't become difficult enough for Nik in both Rejoice and Devil's Toe, someone has just pulled off a brazen robbery in which the mine's payroll was stolen, and Nik - becoming an apparent target for someone with murderous intentions - soon finds himself enmeshed in deadly danger as he tracks down the improbable connections between the robbery and Faith Wright's disappearance. And even with his vast experiences (on the job and behind bars), Nik is hardly prepared for the kinds of terrible secrets and shocking surprises that must be exposed in his relentless search for Faith Wright.

But that's more than enough plot preview. The bottom line is this: Lost Angels is a fascinating, well-written, explosive tale of deceit and danger. Filled with finely conceived characters and plenty of excitement, Lost Angels is a good old-fashioned page-turner that readers will surely embrace. Debut novelist Mike Doogan has pulled out all the stops in this one, and he has a hands-down winner in his protagonist Nik Kane. Let's hope we see more of this heroically flawed and wonderfully scarred P.I. in future adventures.

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