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A Taint in the Blood: A Kate Shugak Novel    by Dana Stabenow order for
Taint in the Blood
by Dana Stabenow
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

As well as an intriguing cold case, this 14th entry in the Kate Shugak series presents us with an amusing role reversal, as Kate persistently vamps Alaska state trooper Jim Chopin, himself normally the sexual aggressor. The story opens as Kate drives all her friends and relations crazy by trying to repay their help. After her home was destroyed in A Grave Denied, Park residents got together to build a new house for Kate and her adopted son, Johnny Morgan.

After Old Sam calls her Katya and tells her, 'You've got to get a grip', Kate pulls herself together, and soon takes on a PI job for the rich and infamous. Middle-aged Charlotte Bannister Muravieff pays Kate an exorbitant fee to get her mother (now diagnosed with cancer) out of jail. Victoria Muravieff has served over thirty years of a life term for arson and the murder of her seventeen-year-old son. Charlotte believes her mother to be innocent, despite the fact that Victoria has never denied the charges. Victoria even attempts to fire Kate on their first meeting at the Hiland Mountain Correctional Facility where, despite being an inmate, she runs the education department.

Of course, this simply arouses the contrary PI's interest, as do the lengths that Victoria's brother Erland ('one of the most powerful men in Alaska') goes to, to get her off the case. For the first time, Kate hires an assistant - she took away Kurt Pletnikoff's livelihood when she warned him off bear poaching, so gives him work in Anchorage. When Kurt is shot on the job, Kate gets really ornery. Backed up by her loyal wolf Mutt, Kate keeps on digging, while continuing to play havoc with Trooper Jim's psyche. More deaths only increase her committment to the case, and she interviews a cast of characters that only Alaska could provide, including 'sharp-eyed old fart' Max and chatty 'Dayglo Diane'. Then the bad guys come after her.

As always, Dana Stabenow delivers an intriguing mystery in a superb setting, with an iron-willed, yet feminine heroine ... who's finally set her sights on Jim Chopin; he doesn't have a chance.

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