Kristin Luna
November 08, 2006 AT 05:00 AM EST

On the surface, a murder, a religious mission, and a reindeer herd may not seem like a congruous mix. Yet, they’re all incorporated into In a Far Country, a fact-heavy account of a 19th-century missionary couple’s loyalty to its Eskimo neighbors after the brutal slaying of a church aide by a native. Author John Taliaferro can’t be faulted for a lack of research; his depictions of the harsh reality of Alaskan living seem strikingly accurate. But his lackluster prose fails to enhance the intrinsically dry content and misses the colorful, minute details that bring nonfiction to life. Historians may find this story mildly appetizing; others will struggle to get through the first 50 pages.

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