Opening with the kidnaping of an Alaskan cruise ship passenger by raven- and bear- masked figures in a Tlingit war canoe, the plot, set in the present, entwines the lives of a reclusive island dweller and a prostitute in a psychological thriller that includes Northwest Indian legends, Alaskan tall tales, colorful details of island living, social satire, humor, and suspense.
Damaged by an abusive childhood, John Frazier, a half-blood Choctaw Indian in his thirties, lives by himself on a small island near Sitka, Alaska. A prostitute in a local hotel frequented by loggers and fisherman, Sally Baldwin grew up in the 1970s and 1980s in an isolated Alaskan mining camp where her drug-crazed visionary father hoped to unite Native American spirituality and Christianity in his Clan of the Dancing Bears. Years before the kidnaping, Sallys father had been reported lost in the wilderness.
The double mysteries of the kidnaped cruise passenger and the disappearance of Sallys father are revealed as Sally and John work out their tumultuous relationship and John gets involved with militant Northwest Indians led by the 350-pound chief of the local Raven clan, Cecil Bell. A friend of Sallys lost father, Cecil, who wears a crown of crushed beer cans, expresses his anger at whites through his retelling of Northwest Indian legends. A diverse cast of local characters are woven into the story.
The unfolding mysteries, and ongoing tensions between whites and Indians, receive a community hearing on the daily call-in radio program, Problem Corner. Announcements of garage and gun sales, bear stories, and community concerns on Problem Corner portray the life of a small Alaskan island community.
Dr. Donna Pemberton, the kidnap victim, is found by Mark Buckmaster, a local guide and spinner of Alaskan tall tales, and Donnas investment banker husband, in the cave of the Clan of the Dancing Bears. Their adventures as they search for her add an interesting subplot to the tale. After a humourous attempt by the FBI to end three centuries of Indian militancy, Sally admits to John the truth about her fathers disappearance after his attempt to kill her in a demonic ritual involving bears. The conclusion reveals how the two mysteries are linked together.