After becoming so involved with Stabenow's first Kate Shugak book, I moved quickly into the second, third, and fourth. Right, a bit obsessive, but I enjoyed them so much I couldn't quit.
A Fatal Thaw opened with a chilling murderer randomly shooting and killing with abandon. Sadly close to the kind of thing we have become accustomed to hearing about and as horrifying and difficult to understand.
from description: "Soon, nine people will be dead, seemingly the victims of a random act of violence—until a routine ballistics test reveals that one of the murders was anything but random."
One madman and one murder of opportunity disguised as part of the madman's killing spree. Kate and Mutt (wolf/huskey mix) step in to investigate.
Again, the glimpses into the culture of the Alaskan wilderness and indigenous people are informative and entertaining. The potlatch (ceremonial feast) organized by Kate's grandmother was a beautiful and touching event as various tribes honored the deceased.
Shugak packs so much into these books and does it so skillfully: characterization, plot, and setting are so adeptly blended that the reader feels truly immersed in the story.
Dead in the Water has Kate undercover on a crabbing boat from which two young men have gone missing.
In addition to the mystery of what happened to the young men, the dangers and financial rewards of fishing and crabbing in Alaskan waters is made perfectly and frighteningly real.
"These conditions add up to the deadliest occupation in the United States -- 128 per 100,000 Alaskan fishermen perished on the job in 2007, 26 times the national average [source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health]. Fishing deaths also make up about a third of all occupational fatalities in Alaska each year."
and "Crab pots and crab pot launchers are common sources of injuries. Fishermen get caught up in the coil lines. Working at the edge of the boat also puts them at risk of being swept off the deck and falling overboard."(source)
Also neatly intertwined with the plot is a history of the Aleut tribe and why they were removed from their original homes on the Aleutian Islands during WWII when Japanese troops occupied the islands of Attu and Kiska. The information about the Alaskan Scouts, a fascinating part of the defense of Alaska during the war was new to me.
"It wasn’t easy to become an Alaska Scout. The qualifications were stringent, and Castner handpicked them all—trappers, hunters, fishermen, dogsledders, miners, and prospectors. He also chose Native Alaskans—Aleuts, Eskimos, and American Indians. “They have one thing in common,” he said. “They’re tough.” (source)
Learning by reading fiction is the easiest and most memorable way to absorb history. Well, it works for me because I can't resist checking things out.
This time Kate is on the North Slope investigating drug-related deaths. She has personal grievances against the Prudhoe Bay oil company, but as she learns more about how the company operates, she is impressed with the amenities for workers who must spend much of their time in the far north and its deadly cold.
Not my favorite, but still very good!
Next up is Play with Fire, and I am making an effort to delay ordering it. I can feel myself weakening, however.