It was well written and intriguing but it left me with one big question: where is Kate Shugak?
I’m fairly sure this is the reaction that Dana Stabenow expected me to have as this is the question the whole novel sets out to answer.
The events in most of this novel are not seen from Kate’s point of view but from Jim Chopin’s. Jim has been asking around the Park to see if anyone knows where Kate is. No-one has any information for him but they all expect him to bring her back. Jim’s search is cut short when he is sent undercover, working with the FBI to try and find a high-profile Russian crime boss who is thought to be in port. By chance, his assignment brings him face to face with Kate.
The Kate he meets is not the Kate Shugak I knew in the first nine books. She has literally vanished. Kate cannot or will not face that she is alive and Jack Morgan is dead. She has left her home, her friends and even her name behind. She is lost in guilt and grief and anger. Yet she does not curl up in a corner or dive into a bottle. She works, hard and long, mastering new tasks running an air-taxi/freight service. Kate shapes how the world she works in is organized because she doesn’t know how NOT to do that. She works because work is better than having time to think and much, much better than having time to feel. Kate has a job but she doesn’t really have a life. This seems to have been her goal: to be “the working dead”.
Her meeting with Jim Chopin begins events that will force her out of the Hide she has built for herself. She becomes embroiled in the case and she becomes angry at Jim. It seemed to me that she rages at him because he is full of life and he will not let her deny her own life.
The plot in “Midnight Come Again” is strong, relatively complex and darker than some of the other books. I was struck by the contrast between Kate’s drinking session with Russian seamen in this book and her session with the Russian sailors in “Dead In The Water.” In “Dead In The Water” the session was lightly flirtatious, Kate was in control and there was nothing more sinister in the room than an exuberant excess of testosterone. In “Midnight Come Again” the drinking session has an undercurrent of threat, Kate is damaged and vulnerable, and there is serious cause to worry about her.
Kate is dragged back to herself, not just by Jim Chopin but through contact with an old school friend and her family. Kate is given a context for how she is seen by others, learns new things about her grandmother and incurs a moral debt towards a young girl.
The emerging dynamic between Kate and Jim injects fresh emotional conflict while also dealing realistically with reactions to grief. Not just Kate’s grief for Jack Morgan, but Jim’s grief for seeming to lose the woman Kate used to be.
This book is a good stand-alone thriller. It is also a very skilful bridge between the Kate we knew before the events of “Hunter’s Moon” and the Kate who is finding her way after it. The emotional tone is perfect and made “Midnight Come Again” a very satisfying read.
The title sounded like a quote but I wasn’t familiar with the source. An Internet search suggested that it might be from Theodore Roethke’s poem “A Dark Time.” The tone seems right. It’s a good poem. Go HERE to read it for yourself.
If you’d like to listen to an extract from “Midnight Come Again”, click on the SoundCloud link below: