Investigation upends secluded town in ‘City Under One Roof’

DAVID ARNDT for The Free Lance–Star

Point Mettier, Alaska, is a small coastal town whose only entrance is through a tunnel. An unusual tourist destination, people travel from all over to see the sweeping views and panoramas of the breathtaking Alaskan coastline and glaciers.

After the end of the tourist season, the town becomes a quiet haven where several hundred residents live in the same building. During one of these seasons, when a severed arm and leg are discovered on the shore, the residents’ world is turned upside down and they invite strangers to their secluded retreat. Iris Yamashita details the police investigation and its intrusiveness in her novel City Under One Roof.

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Cara Kennedy is an Anchorage detective investigating the remains of a grizzly bear. She was initially examined by her peers, but was written off as suicide or a fatal boating accident, which she does not believe. Confronting his claustrophobic fears, he makes his way through the tunnel entrance to find the city cold and unwelcoming. Her police colleagues smile and mock her, while the citizens themselves oscillate from wary and suspicious to outright hostile. Cara can tell it’s going to take a lot more than brandishing a detective badge and investigative credentials to thaw their icy demeanor.

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The novel is also told from the perspective of two additional characters: Amy Lin and Lonnie. When Amy is not at school or with friends, she is a waitress and delivery girl for her mother, a cook and owner of a Chinese restaurant. Seeing her mother as demanding and overly strict, Amy constantly daydreams about escaping the loneliness of a lonely town and living an exciting life somewhere else.

“Moose Lady Lonnie,” on the other hand, is content with her aloof existence. A simple character, she likes to walk her moose, Denny; eating fried rice from her favorite Chinese restaurant; and to be away from strangers.

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“A City Under One Roof” is the story of a small town that spirals out of control when a murder is discovered and outsiders enter a remote society. Although Cara is an outsider investigating a murder, the townspeople slowly begin to look at each other, wondering how well they know their neighbors, what they are capable of, and what secrets they hold. Suspicion follows suspicion until everything seems possible.

David Arndt is a freelance appraiser in Fredericksburg.


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