This 18th novel in the Kate Shugak series features dozens of characters, ranging from a two-bit thug and a former “good-time girl” to a Chanel-suit wearing librarian and a soft-spoken aunty. Two or three of the characters appear both as wizened senior citizens, and in flashbacks from a half-century before as teenagers. In light of the intricate web of characters, narrator Marguerite Gavin’s ability to differentiate each voice is utterly impressive.
Gavin reprises here a role she’s performed in several other Stabenow novels: Kate Shugak, a no-nonsense, Aleutian private investigator. In the tradition of the best gritty procedurals, Kate doesn’t go looking for trouble trouble finds her. Gavin voices our hero with the perfect mix of brittle toughness, latent vulnerability, and the dogged fierceness peculiar to an ass-kicker who is also less than 5-foot-3 and 110 pounds. Kate has the quintessential tough broad attitude and analytical mind that make a great P.I., but Gavin also understands how to portray the uniqueness of Kate’s character within the detective novel genre: not only is Kate a female private investigator; she’s also a Native American.
Stabenow, who grew up in southern Alaska near the Chugach National Forest, deeply understands the values of the Aleutian community she's portraying, as well as the motivations of the "park rats" who live in the Chugach. Asking a park rat what brought him to Alaska is considered the height of rudeness in this culture. Knowing this, Gavin conveys reticence in her voice the reticence to speak up, to say more than one should, to trust someone extremely effectively. As the mystery unfolds, Gavin’s voice never betrays the next plot twist that is just around the corner. Even when Stabenow’s description veers toward hackneyed, Gavin finds a way to make the salient details stand out and keeps the listener engaged, providing a satisfying listen for crime novel fans. Maggie Frank
The residents of Alaska’s largest national park are stunned by the death of one of their oldest members, 87-year-old Old Sam Dementieff…even private investigator Kate Shugak. Sam, a lifelong resident, dubbed the “father” of all of the Park rats—even though he had no children of his own—was especially close to Kate, his niece, but even she is surprised to discover that in his will he’s left her everything, including a letter instructing her simply to, “find my father.”
Easier said than done, since Sam’s father is something of a mystery. An outsider, he disappeared shortly after learning about Sam’s existence, taking with him a priceless tribal artifact, a Russian icon. And in the three days after Kate begins her search through Sam’s background, she gets threatened—and worse.
The flashbacks from Sam’s fascinating life, including scenes from major events in Alaska’s colorful history, punctuate a gripping story in which Kate does her best to fulfill Sam’s last wish without losing her own life to the people who are following her every move, though what they are searching for Kate doesn’t even know.
In Dana Stabenow’s breathtaking new novel, Though Not Dead, the 18th to feature Kate Shugak, Kate’s search for the long-lost family secrets that have been interwoven with the epic history of an unforgiving land leads to an extraordinary treasure hunt with fatal consequences.
State of suspense: listen to more Alaskan mysteries in the Kate Shugak series.
©2011 Dana Stabenow (P)2011 Macmillan Audio
Long term book junkie only recently addicted to audio books. Now my iPod and I are inseparable.
“Although Not Dead” was a wonderful, spirit-raising read. This is Kate Shugak at her best, following a quest, solving puzzles, exploring her family’s past, using her wits and her strength and her courage to take on the bad guys with only Mutt at her side.
This is the eighteenth book in this series. Some series start to feel written out at this stage: repeating ideas, keeping relationships so static that they start to feel like caricatures, becoming dull and predictable. None of this is true about the Kate Shugak series. The books keep getting better because Dana Stabenow’s stories are character-driven and she lets her characters, ALL of her characters, grow and change so that my understanding of Kate’s world becomes richer but, just like real life, never feels complete.
The plot of “Although Not Dead” is driven by the bequests of two dead men: Old Sam, who leaves all his property to Kate, along with a one-line instruction that sets her on a path to discover more about Old Sam’s past than she might want to know, and Jim Shugak’s father who leaves him an enigmatic gift that will change Jim’s understanding of his own childhood. Kate’s intense, sometimes combative, sometimes deferential, but always loving, relationship with Old Sam contrasts starkly with Jim’s emotionally barren childhood, the sterility of which is illustrated by the fact that Jim was at a sleep-over with friends before he discovered that parents hugged their children.
In previous books, including “The Singing Of The Dead” and “A Taint In The Blood” Dana Stabenow has made the history of Alaska as much a character in the novel as the dramatic landscape is but it has never worked so seamlessly as in “Although Not Dead”, perhaps because, this time, the history is seen directly through the eyes of Old Sam, one of my favourite characters in the series. We see The Aunties when they were young and had yet to earn the honorific. We learn how Sam came to own the Freya and why he spent so much time away from home. We come to understand his rugged independence and some of his loneliness. In some senses, “Although Not Dead” is like a wake for Old Sam. It gave me a sense of completion, off saying goodbye to him without forgetting him.
Kate and Jim are apart for most of the novel. This has two interesting consequences: it allows Kate to be reminded of her own strength and independence and it confirms to both of them that they are better together than apart.
There was a slapstick element to the book that I also enjoyed. Kate gets hit on the head so many times in this novel that she might as well be in a “Tom and Jerry” cartoon but it stays just this side of credible. I love the scene where she finally confronts her enemies and adds another chapter to the Kate Shugak legend by the way she drags them to justice.
This was such a good read that my only regret is that I have only two books left in the series. I’m rationing myself to one a month so that I can delay the inevitable withdrawal symptoms.
I really liked this book. So much so that I want to read the whole series now. This was book 20, so I have a ways to go. Yet, I think I will enjoy all of them. Great way to use my credits!
As always, great character development (this book sat in my account for almost 2 years because I found it hard to say goodbye to Sam) and the wonderful Alaska setting portrayed so wonderfully by Stabenow, not to mention the always intriguing mystery. I loved the interweaving of the 3 stories in this volume (that of Sam in the past, of Kate delving into Sam's mystery and Jim's own journey.)
the complex, interwoven mysteries
Kate -- great strong protagonist and love her interaction with the other characters (and Mutt)
not one in particularly, a lot of moving scenes (and I love EVERY scene with Mutt)
Maybe - I rarely listen to stories a second time, but I enjoyed Marguerite Gavin's narration so much, I just might, since I was so let down by what I started to listen to after finishing this book.
I always love Kate best and appreciate that Stabenow doesn't make her too good or too much without flaws, she grows and learns in a realistic way from her experiences, makes mistakes, all that.
No, but I certainly will after this one!
I've read all of Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak books and have loved each one. They always feel fresh, the interactions of the characters never feel forced, and the developments always seem natural and realistic but still quite fascinating. I"ve never felt she's just trying to crank the next book out or tie up loose ends, but keeps crafting each book, start to finish.
Murder Mystery with a little romance:
Starts out with the death of a long time well loved local.
The story surrounds his history and also his beneficiary, Kate's history.
A good story, but too much history about Alaska. Admittedly, I am not a history fan. So if you are, you'll enjoy all the extra info on the history of Alaska.
I would have rated 4 out of 5 if the history part had been abbreviated.
I listen to Audible so that I can read and do all that Mom stuff as the same time. I do see the words as they are read.....
I have read several of Dana Stabenow's books and I love Kate Shugak. These are not always fabulous but this particular one has tons of twists, turns and flashbacks to the past. If you have followed Kate, Old Sam and the aunties this book will explain a lot.
This book was enjoyable enough to listen too. There are definitely lots of plot twists and turns and the flash backs are good for breaking up monotony. The Alaskan setting is refreshing. I've never read anything based there (except for "snow" stories).I realize that this is a book somewhere in the middle of a series so it's kind of written from the standpoint that you and the characters are familiar with each other. You do not have to have read the others to understand this book though. It's like jumping into an ongoing series on TV like CSI or Law & Order SVU, it's interesting, you think you like it, but you gotta watch more to really grab all the nuances of the stories and characters. You also start to like all of it so much more once you and the characters are acquainted. I think the same will happen with this series. Good enough as a stand alone book, I suspect really, really great as a series.
As for the narrator, she was good, but more than a few times it's like she's reading and she doesn't realize that the sentence is continuing so there's this awkward pause a second or two too long and then she continues. Other than that, she does a good job.
I'm used to more intrigue and suspense, this book does not have any of that. Too much description of history and characters, and very little action.
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