Roland found octopuses can open the childproof caps, an achievement that eludes many PhDs.


So, okay, I read this book because it kept popping up on social media as a fabulous read, and yes, I liked it. Octopuses (because now I know the plural isn’t octopi) are intelligent

A staffer put food inside the ball but later was surprised to find that no ony had the octopus opened the ball, it had screwed it back together when it was done.


Six of us were watching her, and three of us had arms in the tank, before anyone noticed what had happened: She had managed to steal the bucket of fish right out from under us.


Roland found octopuses can open the childproof caps, an achievement that eludes many PhDs.

not to mention this MFA.

But there is a great deal of anthropomorphism contained herein, beginning with the title of the book. An octopus with a soul? An animal who, just for example, often kills and eats their mate? Intelligent, yes, curious, adventurous, yes, but you could ascribe those characteristics as well to a gorilla, a raven, a grizzly, a humpback. Do these animals have souls as well?

And if you’re going to attribute human behavior to an octopus who kills itself by escaping its tank and go into literal mourning at the loss of what you now consider to be your friend, why ignore the one motivation that would cement your theory? Maybe it wasn’t mischief or curiosity or loneliness or claustrophobia or in this case agoraphobia (she was transferred from a barrel to a much larger tank). Maybe she just wanted to get back to the ocean, where she didn’t have to put up with all these weird bipeds staring at and fondling her. Remember Inky, who didn’t even leave a note.

This book is well written and clearly well researched with some very funny scenes (love when they all go to eat sushi after a visit to the aquarium), but I’m a child of Alaska and I was raised eating wild catch. If we didn’t get our moose we didn’t eat meat that winter. Maybe I’m just predisposed to regard anthropomorphism with skepticism because I don’t want to think I’m a cannibal. There is no denying the intelligence of the octopus and I’m not trying to, but I dig in at a soul.

The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 20

Warning: Spoilers spoken here.


Upon returning home from New York City in 1994, clutching A Cold Day for Murder‘s Edgar in a sweaty fist, almost the very first thing to appear in my mailbox was a letter from  Tony Hillerman, requesting a short story for the collection he was editing, The Mysterious West (now included in my s/s anthology here). So I wrote “Nooses Give,” whose events occur before Kate1, and whose characters inspired the skeleton plot from which I fleshed out this rewrite of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It brought the Kate Shugak series full circle back to where it began, at least chronologically, with the bootlegger who started it all. It seemed appropriate for the twentieth book, something of a landmark in a crime fiction series, or it was for me.

Booze is the worm in Alaska’s apple and it’s one of the threads that runs throughout this series. It is, alas, very much based in fact. You can buy a bottle of R&R in Anchorage for $10 today and sell it for $300 in the Bush tomorrow.


Booze (and pop, too, another sugar-based liquid that will rot out your teeth and your liver) makes up a significant amount of the freight shipped into the Bush.


Kate’s not kidding when she says she would wish away every last drop of alcohol in Alaska if she could. Penny wrote, “Alcohol took Kate’s mother away from her and left her orphaned when she was only a small child. She sees it destroying the lives of her fellow park rats every day.”

Yep. Sorry to end the Object series on a downer, but booze is the object from Bad Blood.

This has been a lot of fun, guys. Thanks for playing, and for your insightful comments. You’re in danger of making me take myself seriously.


About Kate21–I hope to have the first draft done in November (that or I can be found in a warm bath with an open vein). After which follows the editorial and design process. I’m looking at a pub date no later than March and I hope sooner. It will be a simultaneous publication in e, hardcover and trade paperback. Barbara Peters will be hosting an event for the hardcover signing at the Poisoned Pen. Sign up for the Roadhouse Report to be first in line for dates and times.

Sandford is always good but this book? Is even better.


Any book that begins with Virgil Flowers naked in a swimming hole works for me. Add in two catnapped Amur tigers, immigrant workers being exploited in a pickle factory, a homicidal animal rights activist, Frankie the farmer girlfriend who is, reluctantly I say it, worthy of Virgil’s undivided attention, Sparkle her idiot sister, Bill the sort-of priest, and a hilarious group of vengeful Armenian (or was it Iranian?) brothers who all talk like Damon Runyon characters anyway, and you’ve got a book that will keep your butt firmly in your chair from page 1 to page end. It sure did mine.

Sandford is always good but this book? Is even better. Recommended, and it publishes tomorrow.

All my Goodreads reviews here.

The price of textbooks

I posted this Tedium story on my Facebook page


and it generated a few comments.




And I thought $70 for my Riverside Shakespeare back in 1983 was so bad I accused the teacher of having stock in Riverside.

“Hurry, Mike Mulligan! Hurry! Hurry!”


This book wound up in my to-read pile by way of one of those Internet rabbit holes that began with this article on Atlas Obscura (a very dangerous site you should stay the hell away from, except not), which informed me

To children worldwide, Virginia Lee Burton is the beloved hand behind half a dozen classics, including Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Katy and the Big Snow, and The Little House—intricately illustrated tales of close-knit communities.

Not this child. When you click through the Atlas Obscura post you arrive at the Cape Ann Museum website, there is more–

The Folly Cove Designers was composed almost entirely of women, most being residents of Cape Ann and a majority having no artistic training prior to becoming involved in the group. They worked under the leadership of Virginia Lee Burton Demetrios, who devised a design course which she offered to her friends and neighbors in the Folly Cove neighborhood. Participants were urged by Demetrios to look to their surroundings for inspiration, to draw “what they knew” and to sketch their subjects over and over again until they made them their own.

Who can resist a love story about a guy and his steam engine? Not me, so I ordered a copy of the 75th anniversary edition and I’m not ashamed to say I read it out loud to my inner child and we both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Good writing, great illustrations and serious suspense

Never had Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne

had so many people to watch them;

never had they dug so fast and so well;

and never had the sun seemed

to go down so fast.

“Hurry, Mike Mulligan!

Hurry! Hurry!

but all ends well, if not quite how you would expect. This is one of those books you buy not for the kids in your life but for the parents who will have to read it over and over and over again and won’t be mad at you.

Read more of my Goodreads reviews here.