“The Singing Of The Dead” is my least favourite of the Kate Shugak novels so far. It delivered a good plot, some strong characters and a few excellent scenes but I couldn’t become as emotionally engaged with this novel as with the others.
Kate, still recovering from the loss of Jack Morgan, is not her usual self in this book. She is more passive than usual and perhaps a little more vulnerable. I applaud this in terms of character development but it left a hole in the book that no-one else filled. Kate was far more damaged in “Midnight Come Again” but there Jim Chopin filled the gap.
I was also out of sympathy with the “historical” parts of the story which were bleakly accurate. Each passage was well written but I struggled to overcome my aversion to the brutality of the period.I also found the passages hard to integrate into the present-day story. There was a plot link but not much more.
Of course, as with any Kate Shugak novel, there were some wonderful scenes: the broadcast and interview from the chaos of Bobby’s house, the atmosphere and content of the political meeting in the school gym and the peculiar auction that kicks off the book.
The political setting for “The Singing Of The Dead” provides a great vehicle for reviewing Alaska’s political issues and the factions that work on them. I thought the speeches, given by plausible politicians competing for votes, were particularly well done.
The most uplifting part of the book was the way in which the Park Rats and even State Trooper Jim Chopin come together to support Kate in protecting Jack Morgan’s son from his mother. This kind of practical support for the vulnerable is a constant theme in Dana Stabenow’s books and she always does it well.
In the end, my main reaction to the book turned out to be sadness: for the treatment of Angel Beachem in the Goldrush and for the violence done to the researcher who brought her story to life.
This is the only Kate Shugak book not available from audible.com. I gave up waiting for them to add it to their catalogue and went with the ebook version instead. This was my first ebook. I was pleasantly surprised at how natural it felt to read this way and how easy it was to move about. I miss that with audiobooks. Yet I missed Marguerite Gavin’s voice, bringing Kate and her world alive in my ear. I’ll be doing the rest of the series as audiobooks.