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review 2017-06-19 00:08
Phew, I Needed to Sit Down After Finishing This One
By Dana Stabenow Dead in the Water (Kate Shugak Mystery) (1st First Edition) [Mass Market Paperback] - Dana Stabenow

Wonderful edge of my seat action plus adventure on the frozen sea. I swear I thought I'd scream during several of the near death moments. Kate can be insanely strong ! Oh and i love the new character California surfer Andy.
Kate goes on a crabbing boat, one of the most dangerous jobs on earth to find out what happened to two missing/presumed dead crabbers. She faces a frozen angry ocean, meets an elder who teaches her much and faces some of her past. Holy smokes it's intense !
Now on to #4

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review 2015-11-30 00:02
"Restless In The Grave - Kate Shugak #19" by Dana Stabenow - Kate solves a case for Liam Campbell
Restless In The Grave - Dana Stabenow

Despite the gloomy title, Kate is having fun in "Restless In The Grave", even if she is constantly being beaten up and locked into confined spaces. Having freed herself from her duties as Chair of the board of the Niniltna Native Association, Kate grabs the chance to head out of town to carry out an undercover investigation of a possible murder at Newenham, Trooper Liam Campbell's domain.


For those of us who have read the Liam Campbell books, "Fire And Ice""So Sure Of Death", "Nothing Gold Can Stay" and "Better To Rest", much fun is had from seeing Liam's world through Kate's eyes. I was a bit surprised to find how much Kate enjoyed the sight of Liam in uniform. I figured that she and Wy Chouinard would work something out and I expected (and got) fireworks when Kate and Moses met.


Kate's investigation uncovers something much larger and more sinister than she had expected and gets her involved with all kinds of Federal agencies. The plot twists are nicely timed, the story is both plausible and cautionary with respect to security in Alaska.


Meanwhile, back in Niniltna, Jim Chopin finally acknowledges to himself that Kate's house is now his home and that it is empty without her. He also discovers that Kate's nemesis has been release from jail and has become a shareholder in the gold mine.


Although Kate has a good time in this book, there is a sense that her freedom,  and perhaps her happiness, will be short-lived. It seems that "Restless In The Grave" refers to the spirit of Old Sam and that his legacy to Kate has still fully to unfold.


In bringing Kate's and Liam's worlds together Dana Stabenow  again demonstrates her ability to bring characters to life with relatively few words and to maintain an ensemble cast without letting them slip into plot devices. This crossover also made me aware of what a good job Marguerite Gavin, the narrator of the Liam Campbell series and the Kate Shugak series, does in creating and maintaining distinctive voices for this wide range of characters.

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review 2015-10-18 11:51
“Though Not Dead – Kate Shugak #18” by Dana Stabenow – Old Sam sends Kate on a treasure hunt
Though Not Dead - Dana Stabenow

“Although Not Dead” was a wonderful, spirit-raising read. This is Kate Shugak at her best, following a quest, solving puzzles,  exploring her family’s past, using her wits and her strength and her courage to take on the bad guys with only Mutt at her side.


This is the eighteenth book in this series. Some series start to feel written out at this stage: repeating ideas, keeping relationships so static that they start to feel like caricatures, becoming dull and predictable. None of this is true about the Kate Shugak series. The books keep getting better because Dana Stabenow’s stories are character-driven and she lets her characters, ALL of her characters, grow and change so that my understanding of Kate’s world becomes richer but, just like real life, never feels complete.


The plot of “Although Not Dead” is driven by the bequests of two dead men: Old Sam, who leaves all his property to Kate, along with a one-line instruction that sets her on a path to discover more about Old Sam’s past than she might want to know, and Jim Shugak’s father who leaves him an enigmatic gift that will change Jim’s understanding of  his own childhood. Kate’s intense, sometimes combative, sometimes deferential, but always loving, relationship with Old Sam contrasts starkly with Jim’s emotionally barren childhood, the sterility of which is illustrated by the fact that Jim was at a sleep-over with friends before he discovered that parents hugged their children.


In previous books, including “The Singing Of The Dead”  and “A Taint In The Blood” Dana Stabenow has made the history of Alaska as much a character in the novel as the dramatic landscape is but it has never worked so seamlessly as in “Although Not Dead”, perhaps because, this time, the history is seen directly through the eyes of Old Sam, one of my favourite characters in the series. We see The Aunties when they were young and had yet to earn the honorific. We learn how Sam came to own the Freya and why he spent so much time away from home. We come to understand his rugged independence and some of his loneliness. In some senses, “Although Not Dead” is like a wake for Old Sam. It gave me a sense of completion, off saying goodbye to him without forgetting him.


Kate and Jim are apart for most of the novel. This has two interesting consequences: it allows Kate to be reminded of her own strength and independence and it confirms to both of them that they are better together than apart.


There was a slapstick element to the book that I also enjoyed. Kate gets hit on the head so many times in this novel that she might as well be in a “Tom and Jerry” cartoon but it stays just this side of credible. I love the scene where she finally confronts her enemies and adds another chapter to the Kate Shugak legend by the way she drags them to justice.


This was such a good read that my only regret is that I have only two books left in the series. I’m rationing myself to one a month so that I can delay the inevitable withdrawal symptoms.

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review 2015-09-26 11:37
“A Night Too Dark – Kate Shugak #17” by Dana Stabenow
A Night Too Dark - Dana Stabenow

Despite the gloomy title, this is an up-beat Kate Shugak novel and nothing lifts my spirit more than being around Kate Shugak when things are going well.


Of course, up-beat is a relative term. This is a Kate Shugak novel so, although the book is filled with the intense sunshine of humour, love, sexual attraction, practical compassion, moral courage and physical bravery, it is still loomed over by deaths, murders, political intrigue and the impossibility of being able to save everyone.


Dana Stabenow's ability to write (relatively short) novels that make me laugh, cry, become angry and relax in the company of characters who feel like friends continues to astonish me.


In "A Night Too Dark", Kate gets involved in investigating misdeeds and disappearances at Global Harvests gold mine, strengthens her grip over the Native Association that she chairs, ends up fighting for her life in the Park. It also becomes clear that soon, Kate is going to have to take sides and decide what she really wants to do about the gold mine.


"A Night Too Dark" is the seventeenth Kate Shugak book and yet it is a fresh and energetic as the early books in the series. Of course, I have more history with Kate now.

I know how she came by some of her emotional and physical scars. I know who she loves and why. I know when she will feel obliged to act (although that doesn't mean I can predict what she will do). There is a strong ensemble cast in the Kate Shugak novels but Kate is the sun around which the rest of them revolve.


There is enough in this novel to suggest that next one will be more traumatic. I'll be there, absorbing every page, because the next best thing after an up-beat Kate Shugak novel is a traumatic Kate Shugak novel.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2015-07-21 20:40
"Whisper To The Blood - Kate Shugak #16" by Dana Stabenow
Whisper to the Blood: A Kate Shugak Novel (Kate Shugak Novels) - Dana Stabenow

The last Kate Shugak book, "A Deeper Sleep" ended on an ominous note: the Aunties, the real source of all tribal authority in the Park had overstepped themselves in their response to a set of murders, endorsing vigilante "justice" and leaving themselves open to blackmail.


In "Whisper To The Blood" we see some of the consequences of the Aunties' actions: people taking the law into their own hands, Kate being excluded from her normal "enforcer" role by the Aunties, resulting in more vigilante actions.


This disturbance of the equilibrium of the Park as the influence of the Auntie's changes from something positive, if a little stern, into something increasingly toxic and outside of their control, is well thought through and well described. It made the Park more real to me.


It also showed me the balance that Kate Shugak always brings to her actions. Kate isn't motivated by power or a need to be in control. She doesn't give way to the outrage she sometimes feels. Without having to think through why, when she acts to limit harm or protect the weak, she does so with a calm fury guided by her sense of what is right. That's what makes her respected and feared. It's also what prevents her from understanding fully the power that she has.


"Whisper To The Blood" is packed with great scenes: a snow machine trip to remote landscapes, an attack on the river, and an encounter between Kate and a proud old man living alone in the Bush whom she deals with with a dignity, compassion and anonymity that encapsulates her values.


I enjoyed the political scenes in the book. It was fun to see the normally effortlessly competent Kate, lack the skills and knowledge to discharge her new role as Chair of the Native Association. It was even more fun to see her master it and turn the tables on the people who had been trying to make her into a clone replacement for her Grandmother.

There is one very uncomfortable scene, which would normally have been enough to make me put the book aside. Jim and Kate are fighting. Jim decides to resolve the conflict and release his frustration by having sex with Kate. Kate says "no." Repeatedly. Loudly. With her fists. Jim doesn't stop. I kept expecting that he would. Or that Kate would make him. After all, we're talking about Kate Shugak here. But Jim doesn't stop and Kate doesn't make him.


Jim's reason for deciding that "No" means "Yes"was that Kate switched off the stove as Jim approached her. This, according to Jim, was implicit consent.

The most surprising thing is that, the next morning, and apparently for some hours before that, Kate agreed with him.


I wasn't sure what to make of this. In a way it was an extension of the relationship that the two of them have built: part inextinguishable desire, part refusal by either of them to give an inch and part a hope for something more and different. In another way it felt like the violation it appeared to be. An insane mix of anger and lust seems to have ensnared them both. I couldn't make up my mind if they' d both found release of if they'd both just broken something fragile and important.


Perhaps life is like that. Perhaps the fact that I can't decide is a tribute to Dana Stabenow's writing. Even so, this knocked me off-centre in a way that I didn't enjoy.


"Whisper to the Blood" is still a good read, with a mystery at its core, Alaska as it stage, and a cast of well-rounded characters giving a first-class ensemble performance.


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