>The stack of books in my To Be Read pile is growing into skyscraper proportions. It’s a mix of mysteries and romance, memoir and scientific non-fiction, all of it fresh and new and waiting for review.
And yet the book I chose as my companion over the past week is not new to me at all. It’s not new to anyone. It’s A Cold Day for Murder by Dana Stabenow, the first of her Kate Shugak mysteries, which will be debuting Though Not Dead, the 18th novel in the series this February. I pulled this book from the stack because I wanted to read it from a writerly perspective, to watch a master at her craft, to study the arcs of her plot and the depth of her characters.
And yet this did not happen. I got too caught up in the story — this story that I read almost twenty years ago — to do anything but be swept along by the twists and turns and revelations as Kate struggles to solve the mystery.
Kate’s background is what makes each novel in the series so satisfying, for while each book’s mystery unfolds and unravels and comes back together in the conclusion, Kate’s emotional struggles — especially her romantic ones — span the series. Each time we meet Kate, she has changed in significant ways, yet she always remains true to her Aleut heritage and her own moral code.
In A Cold Day for Murder, Kate is reunited with her former lover Jack Morgan to search for a missing park ranger and the investigator who was sent to search for him. Another strong point of this series is its setting, the rugged Alaskan bush. The snow and cold and seasonal progressions of this land create and much tension and drama and complications as any of the secondary characters.
Re-reading this book prompted me to go back through the whole series (the librarians know what’s coming every time I bring in another request card). And even though the writer in me is awestruck by Stabenow’s talent and craft, it’s the reader in me that’s most excited to see another Kate Shugak adventure on the top of the TBR pile.
I highly recommend this series from start to finish. Make yourself some hot chocolate to go with — use Hershey’s cocoa and canned milk, no marshmallows — and season with a dollop of whiskey or whatever strong spirit keeps you warm.
To read more about Kate Shugak and to explore Stabenow’s other works, go to Dana Stabenow’s official website. Look for Though Not Dead, debuting on February 1st, at a bookstore near you.