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A DEEPER SLEEP: A Kate Shugak Novel
By Dana Stabenow
St. Martin's Minotaur, January 2007 ($24.95)
Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel
In the fifteenth outing for Alaska P.I. Kate Shugak, her arch enemy Louis Deem is once again found not guilty of murder. Deem has a nasty habit of roughing up his girlfriends and wives, several of whom have ended up dead, but he seems to be Teflon-coated. No one wants to convict him for fear of his vengeance. He continues to strut around the Park, followed by his faithful minions Howie Katelnikof, his lazy but adoring cousin, and Willard Shugak, who has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Willard is prone to committing petty crimes over and over, unable to learn from his mistakes, but he is gentle and child-like, carrying a prized plastic figure of Darth Vader in his shirt pocket. He is a special pet of the tribal elders - the "aunties."
Kate has recently moved into a brand new cabin, built by the Park authorities to replace her former home, destroyed by arson. She shares the cabin with Mutt, who is half wolf, half husky, and totally devoted to her mistress, and Johnny, the teenaged son of her desceased husband Jack Morgan. She is still keeping company with state trooper Jim Chopin, who is a bit uncomfortable about the direction their relationship has taken. He's always been a love 'em and leave 'em man, but it's different with Kate.
When a particularly horrendous double homicide occurs not long after Deem's acquittal, an eyewitness fingers Louis. Kate is not about to let him get away with murder this time. Her decision puts not only her life, but also Johnny's, in jeopardy. Deem is alibied by his latest conquest, Abigail Smith, the eldest of seventeen children. Kate has already had dealings with the family, when she came out to serve the patriarch, "Father" Smith, with a notice to vacate the property while the validity of his title is being examined. He stubbornly, but politely, ignored the warrant and continued to build his homestead. Kate tries to warn the girl about Louis's past, but she and her parents believe he has mended his ways.
The story is set in and around the Niniltna community, located in the Park, where newcomers ill-equipped for the unforgiving Alaska landscape either make a quick exit back to the lower 48 or stay and commit suicide by Alaska. The land is unforgiving, and some of the locals prove to be so as well. Stabenow's series has not lost its punch, and her fans will not be disappointed.
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