Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Play With Fire by Dana Stabenow

Play With Fire by Dana Stabenow (audio, fifth in series)
Protagonist: Kate Shugak
Setting: Alaska
Rating: 3.7

As I’ve said before, these early Stabenow books are light on mystery, but big on descriptions and characterization. In Play With Fire, it’s summer, and hot, for once. Kate is picking mushrooms, suddenly a big cash crop following a forest fire that provided the right conditions. She’s helping her paraplegic friend Bobby and his new lover, Dinah. In the forest, she stumbles across a much-decomposed body. She figures out soon enough who he is, but not why his disappearance hasn’t been reported for 10 months. There’s a lot of digression in this novel about religious fundamentalists (who are a major part of the plot) and the education of native Alaskan children (the victim was a teacher). While I agree with Shugak’s (or Stabenow’s?) views on both topics, she does come across as preachy. There is, however, a touching scene where we learn more about Kate’s early years in college – and we gain greater insight into the culture clash that many young Alaskans must experience. At times like this, Stabenow is at her best. It’s a series I’ll keep reading.

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