Kate Shugak

Created by Dana Stabenbow
(1952 –)

When this long-running series started, KATE SHUGAK was an investigator for the Anchorage, Alaska D.A.’s office. She became a P.I eight or so books into the series, after she was badly injured during a fight with a child molester, resulting in the murder of her lover and a scar that runs across her throat from ear to ear. She now lives on a 160-acre homestead in the stateslargest national park with only her half-wolf, half-husky dog named Mutt, a bull moose and a grizzly bear for neighbors.

However, without delving into my overloaded bookshelf — I’ve read all the books — I can’t tell you off head whether or not she actually has a P.I. licence.

I personally think that they are a series that needs to be read. Stabenow always has a good sense of place and one can imagine that you are in Alaska when you are reading them. The stories are extremely well written and the plots frequently zig when you expect them to zag, and the interaction between the characters is particularly well handled.

Kate’s also an appealling and refreshing character. She’s strong-willed and defiantly her own woman — she hunts without apology and lives in the bush with Mutt, her half-husky, half-wolf mutt. Her close ties to friends, family and her environment are an integral part of the series’ charm. In Breakupshe actually takes over as clan leader from her Aleut grandmother.

The first book, A Cold Day for Murder (1992), won a well-deserved Edgar Award, makes for an ideal starting point. Reading them in succession will help you appreciate Stabenow’s intricate over-riding story lines and the masterful way she’s set her character development against a well-rendered and finely nuanced depiction of the harsh beauty of the Alaska environment and its Aleut culture. Atmospheric is a good word to use to describe this series.

It must be something about living up there, but Alaskan crime writers are super prolific. Born in Anchorage and raised on a 75-foot fish tender, Dana Stabenow has written over twenty novels in her Kate Shugak mystery series (the first in the series, A Cold Day for Murder, won an Edgar), and in 1998 launched a new series featuring Liam Campbell, an Alaskan State Trooper, who sometimes works with Kate. In 2007 Stabenow was named Alaska Artist of the Year in the Governor’s Awards for the Arts and Humanities.



Respectfully submitted by Ayo Onatade, with some additional info by Kevin Burton Smith.

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