Bad Blood (Kate Shugak)
by Dana Stabenow
Cover Artist: Photo: QT Luong / Terragalleria.com
Review by Gayle Surrette
Minotaur Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312550653
Date: 26 February 2013 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
In the Prologue, Stabenow sets up the background of the story. Two towns separated by a river. One town, Kuskulana, has grown and thrived, bringing in industry and services. The other, Kushtaka, has focused on maintaining their heritage and ways and is slowly sliding into greater poverty and despair as the population continues to fall. This disparity is given way to intense conflicts between the people of these two towns.
In Act One, there is a murder of one of Tyler Mack of Kushtaka. Just before his death he sees an interesting sight across the river, one that he believes he might get some traction from to add to his nest egg -- a young woman of Kushtaka meeting a young man of Kuskulana. Tyler's death leads to Sergeant Jim Chopin being called in to investigate.
If you're not already getting Shakespeare vibes, you should be. In this case, it's not the Capulets against the Montagues, but the residents of Kushtaka against the residents of Kuskulana, making sure that every injury is paid back in full -- with maybe a bit of interest if they can manage it. And there are the star-crossed, or river-crossed, lovers trying to come together in spite of the history of their towns grudges.
Now Jim Chopin is aware of the difficulty of dealing with Alaskan natives, and he makes sure to observe all the customs and proper etiquette, but no one will talk to him, so he has to call on an expert -- Kate Shugak. In this case, that's like spraying gas on a camp fire, with everyone in the two towns go on high alert, but those who are tired of the constant warfare begin to see a glimmer of a way out, if only they can talk without anyone knowing they did.
Of course along the way to solving the crime there are discoveries of a number of secrets that many wanted kept secret, another body or two, disruption of the status quo, and a number of very angry people. In fact, it's very much like a Shakespearian play -- bodies and secrets all over the place.
As usual, things are pretty fast paced with a number of twists, turns, and misdirections. Since this is the 20th in the series, the main characters are fairly well-known and readers look forward to spending some quality time with Kate, Jim, Mutt, and all their friends and relatives. Bad Blood can be read as a stand alone but then you miss all the subtext of the relationships between the characters, so read this one, but you'll want to go back to the beginning (Restless in the Grave).
Warning without a spoiler: When I finished this book, I just sat there stunned and looked for more pages. In fact, I still feel like I got kicked in the chest by a horse. Stabenow has never pulled her punches, and after Liam Campbell crossover, I thought I couldn't be that shocked again -- I was wrong. Now I'll just have to pace the floor waiting for the next installment.