“A Fine And Bitter Snow” moves right along from “Singing For The Dead” continuing the “we’re really a series now” feeling that has been there since “Hunter’s Moon”.
This book brings Kate back to the Park and gets her reinvolved with the regular cast of characters from the previous books. Kate is most fully herself in the Park. Seeing her in this environment shows how she has changed: her quite assumption that she can and should intervene in Park politics, the hole in her life where Jack used to be and her dawning recognition that, although she still values her solitude, she yearns for a man to share her life with.
I can also see what hasn’t changed: Kate’s loyalty to her friends, her refusal to be pushed into anything, her bravery in the face of danger and her practical compassion in her dealings with people in trouble.
“A Fine And Bitter Snow” gave me another opportunity to see Kate through Jim Chopin’s eyes. Somehow this seems a clearer and more passionate view than I ever remember getting through Jack Morgan’s eyes.
There is, of course a murder and Kate involves herself in investigating it. The death takes Kate back to her childhood and beyond, to the very early days of the Park being formed and shows once again that you can never leave your past behind you. The murder mystery is not particularly challenging but that is more than made up for by how well drawn the characters are.
I dislike murder books that seem fascinated with the murderer, revelling in the violence they do to others and relegating the victims to incidental plot devices. Dana Stabenow draws real people and describes real grief. In many ways, this makes her murders much more terrible than those of her more blood-thirsty contemporaries.
One of the ways that the people in the Park deal with grief is through holding a Potlach. Kate sets this one up (another way in which she is unconsciously stepping into her grandmother’s shoes) and her choice of the picture as a Potlach gift sums up the focus on celebrating the person’s life. The stories told at the Potlach reminded me of the ones that were told at the wakes my (Irish) grandfather’s generation used to hold.
I’m hooked on Kate Shugak now and no longer constrained by books not being available on audible (at least in the US – there are still gaps in the UK) so I’ve downloaded the rest of the books and will be rationing them out at one a month (unless I give way to weakness and read more).
If you’d like to hear an extract from “A Fine And Bitter Snow”, click on the SoundCloud link belowl