It brings me comfort to be back in Kate Shugak land. That's odd really as Dana Stabenow doesn't write cosy mysteries. Her books have very bad people in them. She confronts hate, corruption, misogyny, racism, greed and a hunger for violence. She looks at Alaska and sees both its beauty and its lethal indifference. She doesn't whitewash politics or history and she understands that even the people who think of themselves as the good guys sometimes betray themselves and the things they believe in.
So why does reading a Kate Shugak story bring me comfort?
Because, at the heart of almost all of the stories, there is a refusal to abandon hope, to find the courage to persist and a determination not to look away. There's also friendship, community, love, independence and honesty. It's a home I'd like to have. A home I'd like to be able to live up to even though I know I'd probably fail.
So, after a prologue and two chapters where am I?
Firstly, it looks like Dana Stabenow is going to dig in to the human consequences of one of the worst evils Trump has created, one that I think the rest of the world looks at and wonders why the rest of America allows it: the separation of children from their parents at the border. Keeping children in cages, sleeping on concrete floors. Destroying family by dispersing children across America without documenting where they went or who their parents were. All of it overseen by ICE, troops own SS.
Of course, that's my, entirely political neutral and totally objective, summary, not Stabelnow's. She's a more 'show don't tell' writer, so her proluge deal with two children, a brother and a sister, separated from their mother, kept in cages and then sold on to human traffickers. Then she gives me a chapter showing the fast, instinctive response of two young people who face a fierce ice storm to rescue any survivors of a plane crash, followed by a chapter with Kate at home, cooking and discussing the merits of college and the problems with the State defunding education.
So, I know I'm home. I know things are going to get fraught. And I know I'm going to have to exercise control not to snarf the whole book down in a day, like a Labrador with fresh meat.