|Posted by Gilbert Stack on January 16, 2022 at 6:55 PM|
Trail of the Hana K’ilo by Channing Whitaker
The second book in Whitaker’s Skeptic Detective series takes a very different tone than the first, but still offers the reader an excellent mystery that will have them flirting with possible supernatural explanations for events. Where the first book revolved around a haunted house, this one goes into the remote regions of Alaska as Harlan Holt reluctantly agrees to look into the disappearance of a colleague whose “academic” specialty he despised. The missing man was obsessed with proving that cryptids exist and goes missing in Alaska while trying to find a water beast known in legend as the Hana K’ilo. A local blog insists that several disappearances in the region are the result of the Hana K’ilo hunting. Harlan doesn’t want to be involved, but can’t turn away from the mystery. So he changes his plans to take his girlfriend to Hawaii over the winter break and instead brings her to remote Alaska without telling her why they are really going there.
There are tons of good elements to this story. One of the things Whitaker does best is introduce many legends (all with different names) that could be inspired by the same cryptid—the Hana K’ilo—but could also just be simple “scare kids away from the water” style tales. He also has a group of tourists and staff at this lodge who all make you wonder what’s really going on with them. Finally, he is very convincing in his details of the danger of winter in Alaska, and it is easy to imagine that this rough and freezing terrain is going to be very important to the conclusion of the story.
At the heart of the novel are a series of very complex secrets and relationships that Harlan has to navigate—including the one with his girlfriend. I have to admit that the clues were all there, but I was shocked by how they all fit together. It was a very satisfying—if sometimes slow moving—mystery. I’m looking forward to the next book.