The History of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects – 19

Warning: Spoilers spoken here.


It’s the Super Cub. Has to be. It’s basic transportation in Bush Alaska and in Kate19 it is also the murder weapon. (And even if you took all that away, there is that fabulous Head of Zeus cover above. Although if you’re taking off from an unfrozen lake you really should be on floats, not skis.)


This is my Dad in his Super Cub, Five-Zero-Papa, also known as The Hem’roid, because that’s what the Super Cub gives you when you spend a lot of time in the air in one. Dad was 6’4″ tall so he didn’t really climb into The Hem’roid so much as he put it on. If you were riding behind him, forget about seeing anything ahead, but he was always great about flying circles around anything he spotted that he knew you’d want to see out the side window, a black bear sow trying frantically to push her three cubs up a tree to get them away from the big bad airplane making noise overhead, two grizzlies slapping salmon out of the Theodore River, five moose sitting close together in a MatSu willow thicket, saving energy until the snow melted and the willow budded and there would be something for them to eat again.

If you’re an Alaskan pilot (more than 1 out of 100 of us are, have to be, 99 percent of the state has no roads) and you have a Super Cub there is almost nowhere you can’t land and almost no amount or kind of freight you can’t carry. I once saw a Super Cub take off down Seldovia Bay with 4X8 sheets of plywood strapped to both floats. Although Dad did quit hunting moose when he got The Hem’roid, because you can fit a whole caribou into the back of a Super Cub, whereas hauling out a moose takes more than one trip. Even as big an asshole as he was, Finn Grant was no dummy when it came to planes. Neither was his killer.

Thanks to Arlene for her great comment on cellphones and Ginger’s on the M4, but Megan and Susan have it this month.HoZ Kate20.jpg


Next month, an object from Bad Blood, the twentieth Kate Shugak mystery and a shameless ripoff of Romeo and Juliet. Please put your suggestions for said object in the comments below, and thanks!


“…and enemies, which were legion.”

The Collected Short StoriesThe prosecution had rested the day before with an air of relief. The defense had recalled the investigating officer that morning, extracting without difficulty more evidence over time of many of Washington’s — the defense here coughed deprecatingly — family in the house at McKinley and Alder, as well as evidence of many more sets of smudged and partial prints not belonging to the defendants on the weapon. By the time the defense had excused the officer, opportunity had been extended to fifteen people, or more, if you included Da Prez’s friends, which were few, rivals, which were many, and enemies, which were legion.

—“Siren Song”


Only in e.

On Amazon.comAmazon.ukAmazon.auiTunesBarnes & Noble, and Kobo.

Nuts and bolts sf when it’s done right? There is just nothing better.



I really liked the first book in this series (…), liked the next three, and then came this one. Wow, is it good.

*Spoilers. Can’t talk about this book without them.*

After we’ve had four books to get fully invested in the lives of armed space freighter Rocinante’s crew, Earther Captain Jim Holden, Belter XO Naomi Nagata, Martian pilot Alex Kamal and Earther mechanic (and oh, please do invest other meanings into that job title) Amos Burton. Together they have shepherded an alien protomolecule into a fractured Solar System already hanging onto peace by a thread. Earthers are doling out the goodies far too parsimoniously, Martians are preoccupied with terraforming their planet into having atmosphere, and Belters are just generally pissed off at not getting what they regard as their share of the pie.

The book opens on a textbook assault on a ship repair base and leaves us hanging–why the hell did they do that and what are they going to use that for? Don’t worry, you’ll find out in a truly horrific payoff. Meanwhile, the Rocinante, about wrecked from her last mission to one of the new planets, is in dry dock at Tycho undergoing repairs. It’s going to be months before she can fly again, so during the wait Alex decides to go back to Mars to dot some i’s he left behind, Amos returns to Earth to find out how an old friend actually died, and Naomi gets a mysterious message from an old lover, leaving Holden behind supervising repairs and feeling more than a little abandoned. The book then follows each of the crew on their individual journeys, which are, shall we say, slightly interrupted when the alien gates leading to a thousand new worlds that already have atmosphere, magnetosphere and water finally triggers the war that (my favorite character) UN bigwig Chrisjen Avasarala has long seen coming and has been trying desperately to avert.

Busting up the crew so we can discover each crew member’s backstory is just a great way to reinvest the reader in the series. Maybe there were clues to all of these narratives in previous books and maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention, but the reveals about Natalie took my breath away. While I knew Amos was a stone cold killa I had no idea where that came from. One of my favorite moments in this book is when another character says to him, “So why take them?” meaning why rescue the servants of the family from whom they are stealing a ship to get the hell off a wrecked Earth (just go with it), Amos replies

“Seems like the sort of thing Holden’d do.”

Yeah. It’s why this crew is together, it’s because they are literally better people together than they are apart, even when they are apart.

Alex’s story is the most fun, as nothing on Mars turns out like he expected (loved that scene with Talissa), and then that cumulative scrambling tumble of events that leads to Naomi’s rescue is just a rollercoaster of a delight. When Bobbie (Bobbie’s back, yay!) looks at him and grins and says

“How good’s your control on those missiles?”

I let out a whoop that Corey should have been able to hear in Albuquerque.

Meanwhile, back on Tycho, the revolution nearly does for Jim in about sixteen different ways and when the Roci is finally cleared for takeoff and en route he’s still looking over his shoulder and so he should be. Jim is the heart of the crew and the heart of this story.

“What did you do?” Fred asked.

“There was a button,” Holden said. “I pushed it.”

“Jesus Christ. That really is how you go through life, isn’t it?”

It sure is. The reunion of the crew on Luna, the conversations between Alex and Amos and then Jim and Naomi, just fabulous. These guys need each other so much, and through fire and storm they have reunited, and no matter what the universe throws at them (and oh yeah, shit is coming) they’re going to be okay. It’s also a reminder of my dictum, “Everything is personal.” Here it is, in spades. Marco is a great villain specifically because he is so recognizable as a narcissistic megalomaniac. I can’t wait for him to get his, and while my heart breaks for Naomi over Filip, Avasarala is right. For some acts there can be no forgiveness. Although, Clarissa Rao, everyone’s favorite sociopath, is back, too! Yay!

“She is responsible for a lot of dead people,” Jim said. “She blew up the Seung Un. Took out a quarter of the crew. And that one body they found? The one she was carrying around in a toolbox?…That guy was a friend of hers.”

Yep, Jim, she tried to kill you and now she’s on the crew. Deal with it.

This book is so well plotted and well timed that it reminded me of Don Winslow’s The Death and Life of Bobby Z, for me until now the gold standard in plots. Yep, they would all do exactly those things and it would put them all in exactly those places. Never once did I hold my nose and think “Oh come on.” This one stays on the shelf, because it’s destined to be a comfort read for years to come. Nuts and bolts sf when it’s done right? There is just nothing better.

“Like a wasp eating marmalade,” whispered Mrs. Havelock.”



Young Katie Steelstock, back in her home village of Hannington from her TV role in London as Britain’s sweetheart, is brutally murdered after a small-town dance. Her lover stands accused but not so fast, as other bodies begin to pile up. One of Gilbert’s grimmer efforts, as in maybe he went one death too far (or maybe I mean one death short), but exquisitely well written as per usual and the scenes in the courtroom are simply superb.

Mrs. Bellamy had brought out a pair of old-fashioned pince-nez glasses, which she perched on her nose, alternately looking through them at her notes and over them at the witness. There was something mesmeric about the bobbing up and down of her head. (“Like a wasp eating marmalade,” whispered Mrs. Havelock.”)

Nobody ever did it better than Gilbert. I’m glad he was so prolific that I’m still discovering books by him I haven’t read.