A Deeper Sleep is the fifteen volume in
the Kate Shugak series, so the series is likely to be familiar
to many readers at this point. However, the nature of series
such as this is that unless the author becomes a seriously
heavy-weight household name there are always far more people who
have yet to discover her than already know her; and the absence
of such a prolific and well-thought of author from BookBrowse's
lists was something that needed to be rectified!
The fifteenth installment has been a surprisingly long time coming - after turning out at least one book a year between 1992 and 2004, Stabenow took a 2 year hiatus to work on her first standalone novel, Blindfold Game (2006), a rip-roaring sea-going adventure/political thriller, which launched her on to the New York Times bestseller list for the first time. A second stand-alone novel is due in February 2008.
Like all of the Kate Shugak novels, and in fact, like all of Stabenow's books, A Deeper Sleep is set in Alaska, a place she knows extremely well having been born and brought up on a 75-foot fish tender working in the Gulf of Alaska by her single-mother, only moving to shore in 8th grade. As you know, Alaska is a very big place, about 1/5 the size of the entire continental United States with more coastline than the entire continental USA, and Kate Shugak has covered plenty of it through the series as you'll see from this map. However, this time, the action takes place in Niniltna, close to Kate's home.
Kate, an Aleut*, lives on a 160-acre homestead in a fictitious national Park in Alaska. Her roommate is a half-wolf, half-husky dog named Mutt. Her nearest neighbors are a bull moose and a grizzly sow. Farther off are dog mushers, miners, hunters, trappers, fishermen, bush pilots, pipeline workers, Park rats and Park rangers, other Aleuts, Athabascans, a few Tlingits and the residents of the fictional village of Niniltna, perched on the edge of the Kanuyaq River**, a 600-mile long, salmon-rich tributary that winds through the Park to Prince William Sound. From what we can gather this places Kate's home somewhere between Cordova and Tok close to the Bay of Alaska, not all that far, relatively speaking, from Soldovia, where Stabenow lived for part of her childhood.
All the elements that have made this series so popular are present in force in this latest volume, most vividly the Alaskan environment and the strong female protagonist who has seen considerable growth since the early books, both as a woman and as a private investigator. As Publishers Weekly (in their starred review) put it "there is rough humor, a rich heritage of the community necessary for survival, and at the same time a remarkable tolerance for the many idiosyncrasies of those attracted to the harsh realities of Alaskan life. Kate Shugak is becoming a leader among her people and is already a leader in the sorority of women detectives."
If you enjoy books by the likes of Nevada Barr but have yet to experience Dana Stabenow's writing, pick up a copy of A Deeper Sleep sometime soon, or look out for books from earlier in the series which will undoubtedly be widely available in new and used bookstores (see the sidebar for a bibliography).
*The Aleut are the indigenous people of
the Aleutian Islands, a chain of more than 300 small volcanic
islands, with 57 active volcanoes, that form an arc westward
from the Alaska Peninsula which are mostly connected together by
a ferry system known as
Alaska Marine Highway. Most of the archipelago is in Alaska,
but a few of the most western islands are part of Russia. The
Aleutian Islands are both the westernmost part of the United
States and also, technically speaking, the easternmost (a feat
achieved because they cross longitude 180°. The Prime
Meridian/0° is measured from Greenwich in London; thus any point
that lies exactly on the 180th meridian is neither east nor
west, but step a foot on either side and you are either at the
most westerly point on the map or the most easterly!).
**The Kanuyaq River does not appear on maps. However, the Copper River does, and appears to match the location of Stabenow's Kanuyaq. Added to which kanuyaq is the Aleutian word for copper!
This review was originally published in January 2007, and has been updated for the January 2008 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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