Restless in the Grave is the 19th book in the Kate Shugack series. Shugack is an Alaskan Aleut woman living on her homestead in “The Park,” which is somewhere between Anchorage, Fairbanks and Glenallen in south central Alaska. Kate wears many hats, including President of her native corporation, from which she resigns at the beginning of this book. But, by far her favorite hat is that of private investigator. In this novel, Kate is asked by Liam Campbell, Newenham Alaska State Trooper Sergeant, to look into an airplane death that he suspects is murder. When Kate asks him why he doesn’t handle it himself, he informs her that his wife is one of the main suspects.
So, Kate and her intrepid partner, Mutt, head for Newenham. Kate gets a job as a bar maid and Mutt as a bouncer and they rent a garage apartment from the dead man’s wife. Oh, by the way, Mutt is half wolf, half husky. Together, they investigate, get out of close calls and ultimately solve the murder.
Meanwhile, back home in The Park, Kate’s boyfriend, Trooper Jim Chopin, is being harassed by phone calls! The Park has just had cell service installed because of the recent gold mining operation in the area, and all of a sudden problems that would have resolved themselves, are now being called in to Jim’s office. And for icing on the cake, Jim has discovered that Kate’s arch enemy, Erland Bannister, is out of jail and about to insinuate himself back into Kate’s life. Jim doesn’t know whether to tell her now or wait until she comes back from assignment.
Kate always gets herself into one or more scrapes when working a case, but part of the fun of this book was the type of problems she was running into. They appear to be extremely amateurish, with no particular malice. Nevertheless, they have the potential to be extremely dangerous for both Kate and Mutt.
It’s also fun to get a different perspective. Newenham is out of Kate’s normal territory, and it’s a much larger village than Niniltna, where Kate normally hangs out. The characters are interesting, and not a little quirky! For instance, Kate’s forced to do Tai Chi every morning with a strange little man called Moses; try as she might, she just can’t get out of it – and Mutt’s no help.
I’ve been reading Stabenow’s books for years. In full disclosure, I used to work with her on the Alaska pipeline. More importantly, I enjoy the setting, since I was born and raised in Alaska –about 15 miles from Glennallen, in fact – and am now a transplanted Texan. However, just because I know the author doesn’t give her a pass. Stabenow writes a very good mystery, and is, in fact, an Edgar winner. Her books are full of interesting characters and great insight into living in the Alaskan bush. Stabenow is no wimp and isn’t afraid to get down and dirty.
I very much enjoy these books and have read most of the books in the series. Shugack is a memorable protagonist, and Mutt generally adds some comic relief – although I wouldn’t laugh to her face! I highly recommend the series and will be awaiting the next installment.
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