I separate thrillers or mysteries into two distinct categories.
I love the old fashioned sleuth stories consisting of smart detectives whose investigative skills rival Sherlock Holmes, where probing investigation and a nose for ferreting out truth pull you into the heart of the story. A second category is the titillating serial-killer aka psychopath who has no qualities except to do evil with a smart detective ready to take the disgusting psycho-human down.
Dana Stebenow's writing falls solidly into the first category with her Kate Shugak series.
Kate's a petite five-foot Aleut and a P.I. who lives on a 160-acre homestead in an Alaskan National Park. Her beloved companion Mutt is an impressively sized half-wolf half-husky who weighs significantly more than Kate. Mutt's love for and loyalty to Kate take them through adventures in the rugged Alaskan wilderness that completely satisfies my love of epic detective tales. (And stories involving dogs.)
Stabenow's written eighteen novels with Kate and Mutt delving into secrets and solving crimes. Old Sam Dementieff, her uncle who raised her as his daughter, her adopted teenage son Johnny and her love interest Trooper Jim Chopin are a colorful and always entertaining cast of characters.
Kate's home in the wilderness is a half-hour trip to the closest settlement, the Ninilna village along the 600 mile long Kanuyaq River, a waterway rich in salmon that feeds into Prince William Sound. She comes in contact with recluses, dog mushers, miners, hunters, fishermen, park rangers and other natives: Aleuts, Athabascans and Tlingits. There's an inexhaustible array of individuals and an extensive history of Alaska. This in itself makes the reading of Stabenow's books a joy beyond good storytelling.
I recently read three of Stabenow's books, each one with a unique quality and story. I did not read them in the order they were written, which would be a preferred chronology, naturally. They are well-written and any references to past events are clearly delineated within each book. In fact, I read the most recent book first and will review them in the strange order in which I read them.