When I read “Bad Blood”, the twentieth book, almost two years ago, I thought the series was at an end and that I’d lost Kate Shugak and all the people around her that I’d come to know so well.
I was surprised at how strongly I felt the absence of these books over the past months. I missed Kate’s humanity, her indomitable spirit and the friendships that she’s made.
It’s been a long wait for book twenty-one, a book I wasn’t sure would ever be written.
I bought the ebook as soon as it came out and then left it languishing on my TBR pile because I realised that what I really wanted was to have Marguerite Gaven read it to me. Her voice and the voices she’s created for the main characters are a big part of how I experience Kate Shugak’s world. So, I waited for the audiobook version and then dived straight in.
Within half an hour, I felt like I’d come home. I KNOW these people and this place and I’d missed them. It wasn’t just that I wanted to know what had happened to Kate, I wanted to catch up with everyone.
I experienced this book as a gift from Dana Stabenow. Another chance to be with Kate and to hope that, this time, things might end well.
I won’t focus on the plot here, as that might spoil the book for anyone who hasn’t read it. I’ll just pick out the things that gave me pleasure.
Kate is mostly absent from the early part of the book. She has taken herself off, rather implausibly, and against medical advice, to recover from her injuries. Watching Jim adjust to this and decide what to do about it made me like him more than in previous books. The ageing of the Aunties and the decline of their power felt real and a little sad.
When Kate did return, I found her as hard to understand and as easy to like as ever. The way she let herself get caught up in a case on her first day back, her comfortable familiarity in navigating her way through death and violence and deceit, made it look as if I had the old Kate back but that was not entirely true. Kate had rebuilt herself but not quite in the same image. She feels the gap at her side, where Mutt should be. She’s aware that bullets don’t bounce off her. She’s unsure of what will happen when she meets Jim again. She now truly understands the folly of revenge.
The plot was interesting and brought some long-standing topics to a conclusion. It was peppered with fun pop-culture references, some nods to the changing climate in Alaska as global warming starts to bite, a diatribe against the sins of the baby boomers – a generation who took but did not build – and disappointment at the dismal choices available in the Presidential election.
The ending of the book is a little heavy on wish fulfilment but I felt I DESERVED that after the grief the ending of the last book left me with.
If you’re a fan, this book will please you. If you’re not yet a fan, go back to “A Cold Day For Murder” and know that you have a splendid journey ahead of you.