Dana Stabenow won critical and commercial success with her first mystery novel, A Cold Day for Murder (1992), which won the 1993 Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America for best original paperback. The novel was innovative in two ways. First, it is set in Alaska, which is almost a character in its own right and, as Jack London showed, is almost creative in the many ways its environment can kill people. Although Stabenow is not the first mystery writer to use Alaska as a setting, she is the most popular of a new group of Alaska-based mystery writers, the first of whom was Sean Hanlon, who published The Cold Front in 1989.
Second, the main character, Kate Shugak, is both a female detective and a Native American. Neither concept is original. Female detectives are at least as old as Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, and there were Native American detectives even before Tony Hillerman began to write his many books featuring Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Sergeant Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police. Along with Jean Hager and her Molly Bearpaw series, Stabenow is one of the first mystery writers to combine the two groups into one detective.