“Bad Blood” the twentieth and, as far as I can see, the last book in the Kate Shugak series, is a hard book for me to write about without breaking my personal rule of not including spoilers in reviews. Yet I don’t want to leave it unmarked. I did that with “Hunter’s Moon” the tenth book in the series because the content was so intense. Afterwards, I understood that writing a review has become my way of focusing on a book and what it has meant to me, a sort of salute to the experience. and I regretted taking the chance to do that for “Hunter’s Moon” while it was fresh in my memory.
So I’m going to remain silent on the plot of “Bad Blood” and speak to my experience of reading it.
I’ve been working my way towards “Bad Blood” for a year now. I downloaded the last ten books Kate Shugak books from audible in February and rationed them out to no more that one a month.
I knew “Bad Blood” would be my last opportunity to read a Kate Shugak novel for the first time but the impact of that hadn’t sunk in.
I now understand that Kate and the people around her have become important to me in ways that fictional characters usually aren’t. I’m not prone to hero worship but, for me, a world with Kate Shugak in it is a better place than one without her. By which I mean MY world is a better place with her in it. Just because she’s fictional doesn’t mean she’s not real.
Kate is not a saint. She hates as intensely as she loves. She judges people and she acts on her judgement. She is capable of great generosity and violent vengeance. She is almost always fearless and when she’s not fearless she’s brave.
Kate’s values: the pragmatic, unsentimental help she offers others, her refusal to bow to or become seduced by authority, including her own, her fierce hunger for life, how deeply she loves, how totally she grieves, how she honours the memory of those she loves, make me want to be a better person. They even make me believe that I could be a better person simply by asking myself, “What would Kate do?”.
“Bad Blood” shows Kate continuing to be Kate, which in part means that she is continuing to grow and change and carve out a life for herself and those she loves and in part means that she cannot turn her back on people in trouble who need her help.
The book is full of small scenes of joy and friendship. It also contains violence prompted by hate and ignorance and sheer male pig-headedness. It is another credible and compelling view of Alaska. It is another chance to understand that who we are is as much about what we do as what we think.
The Kate in “Bad Blood” is not the Kate I met in book one,“A Cold Day For Murder”, reclusive, damaged, unwilling to be part of the lives of others, nor is she the woman so lost to grief that she has abandoned herself, that I met in my book eleven “The Singing Of The Dead” back in February. She has become a woman at peace with herself and her family and friends. She is full of passion and potential and serious intent. All of which should make me happy. Instead, it fills me with grief that none of this is available to me anymore.
Perhaps I’m reading too much into it. Perhaps I let the things inside my head matter too much. Perhaps it’s that one of my family died unexpectedly recently. Whatever the cause, my experience of reading “Bad Blood” was the joy of being with someone I loved to be with, foreshadowed by knowing, from the first page, that it was for the last time.
Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear the first chapter of “Bad Blood”