KATE SHUGAK is a native Aleut working as a private investigator in Alaska. She’s 5 foot 1 inch tall, carries a scar that runs from ear to ear across her throat and owns half-wolf, half-husky dog named Mutt. Resourceful, strong-willed, defiant, Kate is tougher than your average heroine – and she needs to be to survive the worst the Alaskan wilds can throw at her.
BAD BLOOD: One hundred years of bad blood between two Alaskan villages come to a boil when the body of a young Kushtaka man is found wedged in a fish wheel. Sergeant Jim Chopin’s prime suspect is a Kuskulana man who is already in trouble in both villages for falling in love across the river. But when he disappears, both tribes refuse to speak to Jim – so when there’s a second murder which looks suspiciously like payback, Jim calls on Kate Shugak for help.
Now Kate must untangle the village tales of tragedy and revenge if she is to find the truth before it’s too late…
I could quite easily leave my review and thoughts at that. Those two little words, a simple phrase, sum it up succinctly. But I guess I should expand just a little on what made me fall in love with Alaska or this post wouldn’t be worth reading at all!
Bad Blood is the first book by Dana Stabenow I’ve had the pleasure of reading (always wanted to read one) but I can categorically say with complete certainty it will not be the last. I’ve always wanted to visit Alaska, whether I do or not is another thing altogether, but thanks to a gripping and atmospheric narrative I truly felt as if I was exploring the wilds, visiting remote and far flung villages like Kushtaka and Kuskulana, sampling the food and gorging on the harsh conditions.
They called their village Kuskulana. It was not as conveniently placed as Kushtaka, being a hard slog uphill from the salmon-rich waters of river and creek, and a longer, harder slog uphill when burdened with the hindquarter of a moose. But the spring that bubbled up provided much better drinking water than the Kushtaka wells, which were brown and brackish, and its sharp point hid a good-sized plateau that widened to the east, a good site for an airstrip. Walter, inspired by the sight of the fighters and bombers who had filled the air over the skies of the Aleutians during the war, was determined to learn to fly and promptly hacked an airstrip out of the alders, tied a red flannel shirt on a pole at one end for a windsock, and bought one of the first Piper Super Cubs.
The book is so much more than a crime book for me, and although pivotal are Jim and Kate’s investigations in a number of murders together with colourful and illegal behaviour courtesy of the natives, the narrative focuses on the lives of those living in remote Alaskan villages where salmon is not only a staple diet for the native Alaskans but the wild bears that surround the snowscape. We explore nature, the climate and how the locals attempt to make a living.
I turned each page with a growing anticipation and a deepening fervour as I followed the exploits of trooper Jim and the colourful Kate Shugak. Although a team they go their separate ways and the story branches off into two separate paths but before you know it, and the book ends, those paths come together tying the book up rather nicely.
There were a number of colourful characters throughout the novel, some more entertaining than others but the one who caught my eye was Kate’s friend Bobby Clark. Bobby a part time DJ with a penchant for the alcoholic beverage from Tennessee, your very own silver tongued Bard of the Big Bump and all we survey, and although his contribution was minimal the passage had me in stitches!
One thing I should also point out is the ending. I hadn’t expected it, it’s quite shocking but talk about leaving the reader in suspense is a complete understatement. The final three pages are explosive, taut and as I’ve mentioned leave you hanging. Having not read her previous novels I have no idea if this is how Dana ends all her novels but man was it unexpected!
Part of me wanted the book to continue for another few pages – so we all find out what happens – but when I turned the final page and came face to face with a blank page I put the book down and steadied myself. The author got it right. Any more would have been waffle, filler material and unnecessary. The way it ends is the correct and intelligent conclusion.
Charles Dickens sums it up rather nicely when Oliver approaches the fat master:
Please sir, I want some more.
Enough said! (I said that not Charles Dickens).
- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Head of Zeus (1 Mar 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1781851204
- ISBN-13: 978-1781851203
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