I have to start a series from book 1, which in this case was ” A Cold Day for Murder” a competent whodunnit that introduced the Aleutian Native American who lives, with her half wolf half husky bitch, Mutt, on her homestead in an Alaskan National Park. It was fun but showing its age a little.(it was published in 1992). Initially, I found Marguerite Gavin’s reading style a little distracting – great dialogue but too sing-song on the text.
I’ve now listened to the first six books in the series and my view on everything has changed. Kate is now a richly written character, set in the context of an Alaskan society and a family and cultural history that each book has done more to explain.
“Blood Will Tell” moves Kate’s life forward in emotionally intense ways, draws on characters from previous books to add depth and continuity and still provides a satisfying mystery to be resolved.
I’m now in love with how Marguerite Gavin reads the books. She is the voice of Kate Shugak and I have finally understood that the slightly sing-song style is an echo of a Native American storytelling tradition.
My favourite passage in “Blood Will Tell” is when Kate, forced with no warning, to make a speech to a Native American conference, falls back on telling a story in the style of her people. The story itself is beautifully written and read, but it also pulls all the threads of the book together into a set of images and ideas that are perfectly expressed. It starts with the same image that opens the book, Kate shooting a moose that has wandered on to her homestead, but this telling is a very different one, a parable, an invocation, a challenge, almost a manifesto.
Dana Stabenow seems to be telling us that stories are always more than they appear: they are how we bring meaning to ourselves and the world we live in, how we share meaning with others.
She is writing a series of detective stories but she is also helping us find meaning in a life and a world different from our own.
I strongly recommend this book to all readers looking for a “detective” that is also a human being they can care about and root for.
By now, Dana Stabenow has published twenty Kate Shugak novels. Books sixteen to twenty are available on audible.com. The earlier books are still being recorded. Brilliance Audio released book six, “Blood Will Tell” in June and Audible picked it up. Book seven “Break Up” is due to be released in September 2013. I’ll be ordering it as soon as it’s available on Audible.