My relationship with Dana Stabenow has been a rocky one. I was an immediate fan after reading BREAKUP, an outstanding story set in the Alaskan frontier. It was full of humor and cultural information, and had a spunky diminutive Aleut heroine who promised to provide many hours of mystery and adventure. Then, as her novels began to take on the flavor of anti-white rants, full of venom against all things American, I pulled away, preferring to keep my political reading separate from my entertainment reading.
But when the opportunity to review Stabenow's latest novel came up, I found that I had been missing the feisty Kate Shugak and decided to see how things were progressing in our wild, northernmost state. And I am pleased to say that I'm glad I did not hold a grudge.
Not only is A DEEPER SLEEP full of the memorable characters whom we met in earlier books, there are also Stabenow's trademark mystery and well-researched police procedurals that have made her an outstanding New York Times bestselling author. While Stabenow's obvious love for Alaska and her reverence toward its Native Americans remain, gone are the vituperative rhetoric and the borderline slander that had been so distracting in the past.
In addition to the author's change in attitude, Kate Shugak has lightened up a bit as well. As she moves further away from the events that caused her both physical and mental anguish, she is less likely to punch a scoundrel in the nose and more apt to seek other means of communication. In fact, in this story she is actually the voice of reason when everyone else is in favor of vigilante justice. And, perhaps most touching of all, State Trooper Jim Chopin, who has been pursuing Kate forever, is on the verge of being requited!
In A DEEPER SLEEP we find once again that law and justice are not always compatible. Just because Louis Deem has been known to be violently abusive and has been arrested for many crimes, he never has been convicted. In this latest incident, everyone is convinced that he has committed murder --- everyone, that is, except the jury, and once again he is set free to terrorize the Park and its inhabitants.
Soon after his release, the wife and son of Roadhouse owner Bernie Kowslowski are found dead --- and once again all fingers point to Louis Deem. The passion and dedication to truth and justice with which Kate and Trooper Chopin conduct their investigations are central to the themes that run through this fast-paced tale.
As a bonus, we get a closer look at the Aunties, four elders who are determined to get Kate more involved in running the Tribal affairs. And we enjoy visiting with the other Park Rats who are doing their best to build simple lives that blend community and independence in the last American frontier.
Reviewed by Maggie Harding on January 7, 2011