‘Not The Ones Dead’- Kate Shugak #23 by Dana Stabenow – a great addition to the series.

A mid-air collision in the Alaskan wilderness between two small aircraft leaves ten people dead. Was it a bird strike, pilot error…or premeditated murder?

Then an eleventh body is found in the wreckage: a man shot gangland style, twice in the chest and once in the head.

In an investigation that reaches to the highest levels of government, justice may not be served, but Kate Shugak is determined that the truth will out, even at the risk of her life and the lives of those she loves most.

‘Not The Ones Dead‘ was an excellent addition to the Kate Shugak series, with a strong, topical plot. filled with violence, hate, destruction, death and political intrigue, balanced by the resilience of the people in the Park and by Kate’s determination to find the truth and defend the people she cares about.

Even if you’ve never read a Kate Shugak book before, this would work as a thriller with a cast of strong characters anchored to a community and a landscape being threatened by the hatred and division that is ripping through the rest of America. If, like me, you’ve read the other twenty-two books and have been visiting Kate and the Park for more than a decade, then the experience is even more powerful.

Dana Stabenow has an extraordinary ability to keep this series fresh. She does this partly by letting her characters, not just Kate but all the people around her, grow, evolve and age. This isn’t one of those series where time stands still. The young grow up, the old die and the ones in between often have their lives torn apart by the disaster mundane and personal or dramatic and community-wide. In this book one of the staples of Park life is destroyed, Kate’s adopted son and his girlfriend start to find their feet as adults who look as if they will become formidable, we get Mutt’s origin story and Kate reluctantly finds herself being redefined as an Auntie, one of the elders who exercise authority across the Park.

Another way that Dana Stabenow keeps the series fresh is by throwing topical issues at life in the Park. This time she places the Park under threat from white supremacist incomers with deep pockets, lots of weapons and a fierce Christofascist view of the world.

But I think the main thing that keeps the series fresh is that Dana Stabenow knows how to tell a story. She carries me with her through the story, making me aware of strange goings on, building a sense of threat and feeding my curiosity about how disparate events are linked, giving me time to speculate on motive and worry about consequences so that I lost myself entirely in the tale.

When I saw how the twentieth Kate Shugak book ended, I thought the series was over. I’m so glad it wasn’t. I want this series to run and run. I want to see Kate age and the youngsters grow up. I want to lose myself in these stories as often as Dana Stabenow is willing to spin them and I want Marguerite Gavin to be the voice bringing me the stories. Her narration is perfect. Click on the Soundcloud link below to hear a sample.

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