This month sees the publication of the 21st book, “Less Than A Treason”. Before I read it, I decided to remind myself of the story so far and how I felt about it. I’ve tried to avoid spoilers but it’s inevitable that you’ll get a sense of what happens to Kate during the course of the series.
I’ve split this into four posts to make them easier to read. I’ve provided links to my spoiler-free reviews of individual books if you want to be certain of not hearing something you don’t want to know
"The Singing Of The Dead" is my least favourite Kate Shugak book.
Kate is still and mourning and consequently very passive.
I enjoyed the up close and personal view of political campaigning in Alaska, especially the political speeches.
I enjoyed the Park Packrats coming together to support Kate in her determination to keep custody of Jack's son.
I struggled to connect to the telling of the story of a young woman caught up in the Alaskan Gold Rush and doing the best she can.
"A Fine And Bitter Snow" brings Kate back to the Park. She's no longer living in seclusion with Mutt. She has friends. She has an adopted son. She has a hole in her life where Jack Morgan used to be.
In this book, Kate starts to take up her Grandmother's mantle and involves herself, in her passionate and obstinate way, in the politics of the Park.
She also solves another murder of course, this time of one of her friends.
Jim Chopin's character is sharpened up in this book, making him more than a Mounty with a grin. He is becoming someone interesting.
Mutt also gets a bigger slice of the action and the fierce beauty of Alaska wraps it all up.
In "A Grave Denied" we see Kate back in the Park, surrounded by the people and places that she loves.
The is a lot of love and a lot of humour in this book. Of course, being a Kate Shugak book, there is also death and evil and at least some of it is aimed at Kate as she tries to set things right.
This is a pleasing ensemble piece, with all the major characters playing a part and almost everyone else getting at least a cameo. I loved seeing how strong Bobby and Dinah are together, how grown up Johnny Morgan is becoming and how dazed , confused and perhaps a little scared Jim Chopin is by the way Kate treats him. Watching her playfully torture him was a lot of fun.
I enjoyed seeing Kate at her strongest, confronting Johnny's mother in a direct, forceful, ruthless and fearless way. This is the Kate Shugak that has the Park’s respect. It was good to rooting herself in the homestead her father built. Kate is, for once, happy.
When disaster inevitably strikes, the response of the people in the Park made me want to cheer.
"A Taint In The Blood" is very slight as a mystery but it's the most light-hearted Kate Shugak book after "Breakup".
It is a light, fun, sometimes sexy read that gave a welcome change in pace from the depressed mood of the books that started with “Hunter’s Moon”. It made me look forward to what Kate was going to do with her life.
She is in the right place with the right people and she has her confidence back.
What could possibly go wrong?
"A Deeper Sleep" was another departure from the normal Kate Shugak book. The focus of the book is not on Kate or even on Jim but on Louis Deem, a monster living in the Park.
Deem is a rapist and a murder and seems to be untouchable, even by Kate. Yet something has to be done about this evil, even if what is done is evil in its own way.
This is a solid story about a predator thriving in the midst of a community that seems powerless to protect itself. It’s about what that threat does to the people who have to watch it without being able to stop it. It explores the moral ambiguity of taking the law into your own hands and what meeting violence with violence does to those who act. It looks at the difference between being evil and doing bad things. It is a book filled with grief and waste and impotent anger.
It seemed to me that “A Deeper Sleep” signals a change in the Park. The evils that are done here will have consequences for many of the people in the Park. The context Kate is operating in is about to change. What is being asked of her is about to change. Kate herself comes out of this book innocent of wrong-doing but that may not protect her.