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The Woman Who Married a Bear: An Alaskan Mystery Hardcover – May, 1992


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 225 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Press (May 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0939149648
  • ISBN-13: 978-0939149643
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,498,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A compelling narrator/protagonist and colorful local details propel this commanding mystery, the first of a projected series set in Alaska. Cecil Younger is a bundle of paradoxes: a hard-drinking private eye in Sitka, he writes haiku and lives with the guilt of career failure and the pain born when he wife walked out on him. Younger needs a good case to get his mind off his troubles, and it comes when an old Tlingit woman hires him to find out why her son, big-game guide Louis Victor, was shot to death. She does not believe the mentally unbalanced man convicted of the crime was responsible. Younger takes on the closed case mainly to placate the grieving mother, but after he is the target of potshots, he comes to believe there is a deeper story than the facts suggest. Throwing himself into the case, he travels from Sitka to Juneau to Anchorage to track down and question the victim's wife, grown children, friends and fellow guides. Sustaining the suspense from start to satisfying, unexpected finish, first novelist Straley, a criminal investigator for Alaska's Public Defender Agency, since suspense is sustained thru plot, seems awk to mention them separately has written a book whose unique, fully fleshed-out characters readers will be eager to see again.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Cecil Younger, a private investigator of sorts in Sitka, Alaska, has many enemies besides the alcohol he so assiduously consumes. One of them tries to kill him when he asks questions about the murder of an Indian--even though the convicted killer sits in prison. Cecil's quest connects him with a cross-section of frontier inhabitants: Indians, Eskimos, hunters, drunkards, even an estranged lover. Straley's evocative prose conjures up both natural wonder and human tawdriness without slackening the insistent suspense. A promising debut.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 22 customer reviews
Lovely descriptions of the Alaskan coast and just a very good story.
C. R. Imes
I've ordered the other novels in the Cecil Younger series, and I can't wait to get at 'em.
Judith Lindenau
This was published in 1992 and this is the first time I've read any John Straley.
D. P. Birkett

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 27, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I enjoyed this book a lot. The Alaskan setting is beautifully described by someone who knows it intimately. The characters are (mostly) unique and memorable; even the potentially cliche-ridden drunken P.I. Younger has a complicated and intriguing background. The writing is economical in the way good poetry is economical -- comparisons with Raymond Chandler are apt, as he's one of the few mystery writers who manage to achieve the same balance. And the animal characters -- ravens, bears, eagles -- are used brilliantly to enhance the drama of the story. I found the mystery itself rather weak: of COURSE the guy who's doing time for the crime didn't commit it, and the isolated setting means that the number of suspects is necessarily limited. The P.I.'s elderly client doesn't tell him the eponymous legend until very late in the book, but that was a wise decision on the author's part, as it clearly gives away who done it. But the climax is still exciting enough, and calls on all of Younger's considerable resourcefulness. I'm definitely planning to read the rest of the series.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Judith Lindenau on February 2, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Woman Who Married A Bear" is an incredibly wonderful novel. It is filled with one-of-a-kind characters who mesh into a compelling, tangled story line. Add to that mix the uniqueness of Sitka, Alaska and and the craftsmanship of Straley as a writer, and you have a fine reading experience. I've ordered the other novels in the Cecil Younger series, and I can't wait to get at 'em.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 12, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Having read The Curious Eat Themselves and being intrigued by the way Straley uses Alaskan wildlife (especially the appearance of ravens), geography and climate to enhance the often creepy mood permeating the storyline I sought out his first. I'm glad I did. Here is an Alaskan version of vintage Chandler. I marveled at the similarities between this novel and The Big Sleep or The Little Sister with the strong matriarch in Straley's novel (analagous to the patriarchs found in Chandler's work) fighting to preserve the family name and honor, no matter what the cost. Also fascinating is Straley's use of Tlingit myths and stories as allusions to the plot twists in The Woman Who Married A Bear. Here is a series of private eye novels with authenticity in voice, setting and style. I plan to read the entire series in chronology.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David A. Smith on February 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
When a young man, I wanted to go to Alaska for adventure. This writer made me believe I had made the trip. John Straley writes this mystery as an existential poet who describes a place and people who live a hard scrabble near-wilderness existence verging on a mythological one. I look forward to reading more of this author and am pleased to see that he has published a book of poetry sold on Amazon.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Clare O'Beara on May 21, 2013
Format: Paperback
Cecil Younger is an alcoholic dropout - his story is not great. But the case he investigates in bitterly cold Alaska is worth the work of reading about his moodiness. A man has been murdered and PI Younger traipses around the towns and cabins of the various people who knew him to find the truth. An elderly Native woman finally tells him the local legend of a woman who married a bear. This is commonly believed to have happened by some Natives even today, always some years ago and in the next village over, or the one beyond that. The native people believed humans and bears were related. Extrapolating from metaphor, the PI puts pieces together and there is hope that he is also putting his life together.
I would have liked the story a lot more if the central character hadn't been a total drunk, but maybe with six months of dark and cold, this is commoner in Alaska than we realise.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 18, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
John Straley has a unique place in which to set his story, and unique people to act the parts, each of which might hamper or bog down a writer with less ability. Instead, Straley blends the setting and the characters into the story so that the whole comes out complete. This is a very satisfactory book to read; it is interesting, has fast and slow paced sections, there are no "tag" ends that have been forgotten or left hanging, and having lived in Southeast Alaska most of my life, I know his grasp of the details is perfect. Even though authors quite often grow "out" of their original genre, I am sure the integrity of John Straley's writing will endure no matter the subject matter.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on July 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
In Sitka hard boiled drinker Cecil Younger sits outside the Alaskan state run Pioneer Home for the elderly without any money and no idea what happened to his credit card. He cannot afford the ferry to leave town and wonders what cure to try next to battle alcoholism as only Haiku writing so far has helped a little. Cecil blames or thanks his drinking problem depending on how many he already has on his wife deserting him.

When his potential client Mrs. Victor finishes her breakfast Cecil enters the facility to talk with her. The elderly Tlingit woman hires Cecil to learn the whole truth why someone killed her son Louis, a big-game guide; she rejects the official position that a crazy man convicted of the murder committed the crime. Needing to escape his troubles and knowing the irony of taking on The Brown Bear Man Case, Cecil agrees to investigate to help the grieving mom get some closure though he expects to find nothing different until someone tries to shoot him. Cecil travels to Juneau and Anchorage to talk with family members and hunting guides not realizing that opening up this solved case could lead to a second murder, his.

THE WOMAN WHO MARRIED A BEAR is a terrific Alaskan private investigative tale that grips the audience on several fronts. Readers will appreciate the fallen hero struggling to regain some of his self esteem, but not always succeeding. Cecil's inquiries are electrifying as the suspense mounts with every new person he questions and his tour of Alaska enhances the excitement. Readers will welcome John Straley as a super addition to the forty-ninth state mystery pantheon.

Harriet Klausner
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More About the Author

John Straley never saw himself living in Alaska. Now he can't see himself living anywhere else. He knows the weather and wild of the place - what the wind will bring, the give of muskeg underfoot. He has met the characters that fill his books. He owns a lot of raincoats.

The youngest of five children, John Straley was born in 1953. He received a BA in English and a certificate of completion in horse shoeing. He has brown eyes and likes jokes and a wide variety of literature and music. He is the Shamus Award-winning author of The Curious Eat Themselves and The Woman Who Married a Bear and was appointed the Writer Laureate of Alaska in 2006. John Straley lives with his wife, Jan, a prominent whale biologist, in a bright green house on the beach in Sitka, Alaska, where he works as a criminal defense investigator by day and sleeps, writes, and plays with his band, The Big Fat Babies, whenever he can.

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