Though Not Dead (Kate Shugak Series #18)

Though Not Dead (Kate Shugak Series #18)

by Dana Stabenow

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Kate Shugak will go to the ends of the earth to solve one Alaskan family's epic mystery in this breathtaking novel Though Not Dead from New York Times bestselling author Dana Stabenow

The residents of Alaska's largest national park are still stunned by the death of one of its lifelong residents: Eighty-seven-year-old Old Sam Dementieff. Dubbed the "father" of all of the Park rats—although he had no children of his own—Sam was especially close to his niece, P. I. Kate Shugak. Even so, she more than anyone is surprised to discover that in his will he's left her everything—including a letter instructing her simply to "find my father."

Easier said than done. Sam's father scandalously disappeared after his birth, taking with him a priceless tribal artifact, a Russian icon. Now, just three days into her investigation, Kate finds herself being threatened—and worse. The flashbacks from Sam's fascinating life, including scenes from major events in Alaska's colorful history, punctuate a gripping story in which Kate does her best to fulfill Sam's last wish. Meanwhile, an unknown enemy is on her trail…and will stop at nothing to make sure that the truth about Sam's father stays buried.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312559106
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 11/29/2011
Series: Kate Shugak Series , #18
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 331,434
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Dana Stabenow is the New York Times bestselling author of the Kate Shugak mysteries and the Liam Campbell mysteries, as well as a few science fiction and thriller novels. Her book A Cold Day for Murder won an Edgar Award in 1994. Stabenow was born in Anchorage, Alaska and raised on a 75-foot fish tender in the Gulf of Alaska. She has a B.A. in journalism and an M.F.A. in writing from the University of Alaska. She has worked as an egg counter and bookkeeper for a seafood company, and worked on the TransAlaska pipeline before becoming a full-time writer. She continues to live in Alaska.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


“Well, we all knew he was older than God,” Jim said.

They were at Old Sam’s cabin, where Kate was sorting through the old man’s belongings. Kate and the aunties had decided that the potlatch would be on the fifteenth of January, which gave them a little over three months to label Old Sam’s possessions for the gift giving, and to allow everyone from Alaska and Outside who wanted to attend to make travel arrangements and contact friends and relatives in the Park for a place to unroll their sleeping bags.

It was also the day of the annual shareholder meeting of the Niniltna Native Association. The price of gas being what it was, travel to and from Niniltna was not cheap, no matter if you did it by plane, boat, pickup, four-wheeler, or snowgo. Plus, it cost the same to rent the high school gym for an event that lasted four hours as it did for an event that lasted all day. Kate Shugak was a frugal and practical woman.

There was a file marked “Will” in the back of the box. Kate pulled it out and opened it.

Jim looked at her bent head, and at Mutt, who was leaning up against Kate’s side. Whenever Kate was hurting, Mutt was always as close to her as she could get without actually climbing into her lap. Since Mutt, the half gray wolf half husky who allowed Kate to live with her outweighed Kate by twenty pounds, leaning seemed the better option all around.

Old Sam’s cabin was built on a floor plan common to the Park anytime between twenty-five and a hundred years before, a ground floor twenty- five feet square with a sleeping loft reached by a ladder made from two-by-fours. The rungs on the ladder were worn smooth from decades of use. Jim hoped that when he was eighty-nine his knees would be in good enough shape to climb eight feet up a vertical ladder to get to bed.

He looked back at Kate.

If she were waiting for him in that bed, he’d find a way.

The one room downstairs had a counter with an old chipped porcelain farm sink set into it, with shelves built into the wall above and below. The sink came with an old-fashioned swan-necked spout and two spoked faucets. Old Sam had tapped into public water when it had come into Niniltna twenty years before, but the out house was still outside. When asked why no indoor toilet, a growled “You don’t shit in your own nest” was his invariable reply.

There was an oil stove for cooking and a woodstove for heat and an old Frigidaire refrigerator that must have been added when they ran the power line out from Ahtna back in the sixties. More built-in shelves covered every inch of the back wall from floor to ceiling beneath the floor of the loft, one section for weapons and ammunition and the rest for books ranging from Zane Grey to a leather-bound, three- volume edition of the log of Captain Cook that made Jim’s mouth water just to look at it. A brown vinyl recliner with a dent in the seat the size of Old Sam’s skinny ass occupied one corner, next to a pole lamp and a Blazo box standing on one end. The box was covered with mug rings and was filled with a stack of magazines, National Geographic, Alaska magazine, Playboy. There was a workbench next to the door where Old Sam cleaned his guns and did the fine woodworking on projects he’d allowed Park rats to talk him into, wall shelves and cupboards, mostly, with an occasional bed frame or dining table thrown in.

“He revised his will only last month.”

Kate was sitting at the chrome-legged dining table in the center of the room, on one of three mismatched chairs. The table had a lazy Susan in the middle of it, filled with salt and pepper shakers, a sugar bowl, a Darigold one-pound butter can with a plastic lid, a bottle of soy sauce. Old Sam liked his sticky rice, a legacy of his half-Filipino father.

Had liked. It was still difficult to accept the fact that the old man was dead. It was especially difficult to imagine life in the Park going on without his acid, perspicacious, and occasionally uncomfortably prophetic commentary. Old Sam had been an entire Greek chorus all by himself.

“He had a lot of stuff,” Jim said. “Do you want help?” It was Monday morning, and he was past due at work.

She looked up. “Less than two weeks ago.”


“He revised his will less than two weeks ago.”

“Maybe he had a premonition.”

She snorted. “There was never anything the least bit fey about Old Sam.”

Jim thought of the old man built of bone and sinew, quick, smart, smart-assed. Indomitable, indestructible, and until the day before yesterday, immortal. Kate was right. If anyone had ever lived in the real world, it had been Old Sam Dementieff. Jim was going to miss the hell out of him. “Do you need help here?” he asked again. “I can take a day.”

“Thanks, but I got this.” She tucked a strand of short dark hair behind an ear, exposing the high, flat cheekbone and the strong throat bisected by the long scar that had faded over the last eight years to a thin white line. With hazel eyes set in skin darkened to bronze by the summer just past and a full seductive mouth set over an obstinate chin, she was a five- foot, one- hundred- and- twenty- pound package of dynamite clad in black sweatshirt, blue jeans, and tennis shoes.

His dynamite. The pronoun came to him without warning, and under its influence he stepped forward to pull the file from her hands. “Come here.” He picked her up and sat down again on the chair, setting her on his lap.

She didn’t protest. Her head found a place on his shoulder instead, and a moment later he felt the warmth of her tears soak through his shirt.

“Hey,” he said, tipping her head up.

She took a shaky breath and tried to smile. “He’d make fun of me if he could see me now.”

“Bullshit,” Jim said. “He’d be proud you cared enough. Listen, Kate. He went out the way we all wish we could go. He hunted his own moose, packed it home, butchered it out, and threw a feed for everyone he loved. Damn fine feed, too.”

Her smile was wobbly. “Yeah, it was.”

“And then he turned off the engine and left the shop.” Jim’s shoulders rose and fell in a slight shrug. “What do you Injuns say? It was a good day to die.”

She sniffed and gulped back a laugh that was half sob.

He leaned in, his lips moving across her skin, sipping at the salt tears. Her breath caught, warm on his cheek, and her head turned so her mouth was close to his. He accepted the invitation and their lips met in a long and gentle caress, his hands warm and strong at the back of her neck and on her hip.

It was becoming less frightening to him, this need he found to comfort, to console, to demonstrate an affection that had nothing to do with sex. Although if the nearest bed hadn’t belonged to a man not dead forty-eight hours . . . He raised his head and hazel eyes met blue in a long look. “Better?”

She was a little flushed, and the full lips quirked at the corners. “An effective laying on of healing hands.”

He grinned and kissed her again, quick and hard. “I’ll lay more than that later.”

She laughed.

Old Sam would have, too.

The loss of Old Sam Dementieff notwithstanding, Jim drove to the trooper post with a lighter heart. Probably part of that was due to Kate’s being as willing to accept his comfort as he was unafraid to give it. They’d been circling each other for so long, wary, suspicious, and let’s face it, just plain scared of all the baggage loaded on that slow-moving barge called relationship. You couldn’t move a barge on its own, you had to hire a tug. Up until Kate, the women with whom he’d kept company had lasted the length of a ride in a cigarette boat between Miami and Havana. Sometimes it felt like he’d served more time for Kate than Jacob had for Rachel.

He knew she was still working out the trust issues. Jack Morgan, a government-certified Grade A one-woman man, was a hard act to follow in that respect. It didn’t help that despite a visible lack of offspring, Chopper Jim Chopin’s nom d’amour had once been Father of the Park. Come to think of it, Old Sam had been the one to hang that on him. Right after Misty Lambert had burned the clothes he’d left behind, during the monthly meeting of her book club with all eight members in attendance and more invited over to celebrate the event. At least half of whom he’d slept with at one time or another.

They’d all got a big laugh out of it at the time, both the ritual immolation and Old Sam’s nicknaming, but the truth was, Jim Chopin was probably quicker with a condom than he was with his sidearm. Living with Johnny Morgan was as close as he ever wanted to come to being a father. As the only Alaska state trooper in twenty million acres of national Park, he already had eight thousand children requiring primary care.

He pulled up in front of the post, making a mental note to stop in at the high school to suggest to Johnny, man-to-man, that he spend the night in town. Johnny was old enough to recognize the justice of the appeal, and besides, given the way things appeared to be heating up between Johnny and Van, the kid would expect some reciprocity in the not too distant future. Jim had a vivid memory of what sixteen was like. If he couldn’t keep his hands off Kate now, at sixteen he would have kept her horizontal for days at a time.

He laughed at himself and got out of the truck. His dispatcher met him at the door, a pink message slip in hand and an expression on her face that wiped his mind free of blithe spirit. “What?” he said, mind racing, sorting through the usual suspects. Howie Katelnikof, Martin Shugak, Wade Roche and what might or might not be going on out at his place, Dulcey Kineen’s latest escapade, which he hoped this time did not involve the road grader. “Cindy threatening to shoot Willard again?”

“No, Jim,” she said, and right away he knew from the gentleness of her reply that it was going to be bad. “I just got off the satellite phone with Nick.”

Nick Luther was head of the Alaska state trooper detachment in Tok, which had been Jim’s old post until two years before, when volume of business caused Juneau to open a new trooper post in the Park. He wondered now why he had never wondered before if someone in the state capital had known about the discovery of the world’s second largest gold mine in Suulutaq before making that decision.

His mind tended to head off on tangents whenever he wanted to avoid what was coming at him like a steamroller. He took a deep breath. “Go ahead,” he said. “Serve it up.” When she still hesitated, he said, “What ever it is, letting it sit won’t make it smell any better.”

“There’s no easy way to say this, Jim,” she said. “Your mother called.”

His spine stiffened. “Yeah?”

“I’m so sorry. Your father died.”

Kate sat on the bed and watched him pack, putting clothes she had never seen him wear into an actual suitcase she’d never seen him use. Out of uniform he wore T-shirts and jeans. Traveling within Alaska he used a pack. The charcoal gray suit looked like something the new and improved Kurt Pletnikof would wear to meet his better- heeled clients in Anchorage. The silver, hard- sided suitcase looked like it had been bought out of the SkyMall catalogue, with which Kate was familiar only because it was in every seat pocket on every Alaska Airlines 737, offering everything from basketballs autographed by Magic Johnson to $900 wine fridges, none of which was much use to anyone about to make a connecting flight to Igiugig. “Gee,” she said, “looks just like downtown.”

He shot her a quick look, and she wondered if that had come out more intimidated that she had meant it to. “California, here I come,” he said.

Try as she might she could not detect any joy in his tone.

They were in his room at Auntie Vi’s B and B, or what had been Auntie Vi’s B and B before she sold it to the owners of the Suulutaq Mine to be a bunkhouse for mine employees in transit. Auntie Vi was now running it for them. A condition of sale had been that Jim got to keep his room there, which he had had since first moving to the Park to open the post. Mine manager Vern Truax had been more than happy to accommodate a law enforcement presence fifty miles from his mine.

“Right back where you started from,” Kate said.

This time he stood up and looked her straight in the eye. “I won’t be staying long.”

“You don’t have any brothers or sisters,” she said.


“And your mother is how old?”

“Seventy- nine.”

“Ten years younger than Old Sam.”


She thought of how healthy Old Sam had been, right up until he sat down on his dock and died. “Your mom in good shape?”

“Depends on what you mean by ‘in good shape.’ I’d bet a whole paycheck she looks pretty damn good. She’d sure as hell spend it getting that way.” He zipped the suit into a garment bag, something else Kate recognized only from cata logues, and snapped it into the lid of the aluminum suitcase.

“You’re, what, forty-two now?”


“She was thirty- seven when you were born.”

He added a couple of white, button-down shirts, neatly folded, to the suitcase. T-shirts, shorts, and socks followed. “I showed up late, when they’d pretty much given up on having kids. Dad was forty-five.”

“You never talk about them.”

He shrugged. “Not much to say. They were hard of hearing before I was in high school. It was like growing up with grandparents.”

Wow, she thought. Didn’t that sound affectionate.

When she thought about it later, she wondered if that lack of affection might have been part of what had driven Jim north in the first place.

He pulled a shoebox from beneath the bed and added it to the suitcase. The ditty bag full of toiletries went into a daypack with Craig Johnson’s latest Walt Longmire novel and Naomi Novik’s Victory of Eagles. The books had been waiting for him in the post office when he had cleaned out his mailbox that morning. He hoped two books  were enough to get him from Anchorage to San Jose, because the rest of his to-read pile was back at Kate’s  house. He was six four, and there was nothing worse than being shoehorned into last class with nothing to take his mind off the discomfort of having his knees jammed up against the seat in front of him. He’d once been stuck on a flight from Phoenix to Seattle with a Steve Martini book whose perp he’d guessed before they reached cruising altitude. Never again. “Where the hell’s my— Oh, here it is,” he said, producing a clip-on reading light and tossing it into the daypack with the books. “They’ve got the seats so close together on the new jets that I can never get the overhead light to shine on anything but the top of the head of the guy sitting in front of me. Especially when he leans his chair back into my lap.”



“Why did you come to Alaska?”

He zipped up the daypack. “I read Coming into the Country when I was too young to resist.”

Always with the smart remark. Fine. “Is anyone coming in to the country to cover for you while you’re gone?”

He snapped the suitcase closed and set it on the floor. “Nick will check in with Maggie every morning. Otherwise, I’m relying on you, babe. Oh.” He paused to look at her. “Kenny says there’s been a rash of break-ins and burglaries in Ahtna over the last month. He says he thinks it’s partly due to the economy, people looking for anything they can sell to raise cash. Just FYI, in case it spreads down the river.”

“Got it,” she said. He felt distant from her somehow, as if he were already in Los Angeles. Land of surf and sand and sun. When he looked at her again she realized she’d said the words out loud.

“I’m not staying there, Kate,” he said again. “I work in Alaska. I live in Alaska.”

You’re in Alaska, he could have said, but didn’t.

Instead, he put the daypack on the floor next to the suitcase and took her down to the bed with a soft tackle. Caught off guard, she looked up at him with a startled expression. “Let me just mark my spot,” he said, and reached for the buttons on her jeans.

He made George’s last flight into Anchorage with sixty seconds to spare. She stood flushed and rumpled at the end of the forty-eight hundred-foot dirt airstrip, watching the de Havilland single Otter turbo rise into the air, bank right, and head west, its signature whine receding over the horizon.

Mutt gave a soft, plaintive whimper. Kate looked down and said in a stern voice, “We are strong and beautiful women. We can do anything.”

And Mutt proved it on the walk back to the red Chevy super cab by catching the hem of Kate’s jeans in her teeth and dumping Kate on her ass.

THOUGH NOT DEAD Copyright © 2011 by Dana Stabenow

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Though Not Dead (Kate Shugak Series #18) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 59 reviews.
GEORGIAMOON More than 1 year ago
"Though Not Dead" is a well-plotted suspense with interesting three-dimensional characters with a bit of fascinating Alaskan historical background. Real, believable, down-to-earth people with great heart make up the character types. They portray great bonds between people as well as great bonds between people and their animals, such as "Mutt", Kate's dog / wolf. Old Sam's death provided the mysteries to be searched out and the search gave Kate much more knowledge of Old Sam than she would have gathered otherwise. A worthwhile read.
MarjorieofConnecticut More than 1 year ago
Ah, Dana Stabenow. It's hard think of any other series, mystery or otherwise, where the 18th book in the series is as strong and well-written as the ones that have come to us before. You care as much, if not more, about "Though Not Dead" and the residents of The Park in Alaska, particularly investigator Kate Shugak as Stabenow unfolds more of the byzantine story of Kate and her family and friends. You are thrilled to see what adventures Kate is bound to dig up or to have thrust upon her. I don't like to give any plot points when I write about a book in order not to ruin even the tiniest plot point for other readers. I will just say that this book takes up shortly after the end of the 17th book, "A Night Too Dark". My only complaint is that it will take another year before we all get to see what happens next. And with a talented writer doing what she does best, you will always want to know what happens next. For now though, curl up with this book and enjoy the ride through Alaska and beyond. Thanks, Dana.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Alaska octogenarian Samuel "Old Sam" Dementieff dies. His friends like his niece and one time ward private detective Kate Shugak assumed "Old Sam" would live forever. Kate still believes her beloved foster father will live forever in hearts likes hers. His death also ignites a deadly treasure hunt frenzy. Just a few years before Sam was born a flu epidemic devastated Alaska and much of the world in 1918. Years later, Sam was part of a party who found the state's biggest gold mine, the Suulutaq which produced a legendary gold nugget that everyone seems to want to own and some are willing to kill to possess it. However, gold fever is not the only value, the survivors want with Sam's demise. From when Sam met Dashiell Hammett, rumors spread that the writer left behind in the Aleutians an unpublished manuscript. Finally he also served in WWII as part of the Army's Castner's Cutthroats unit while a shocked Kate learns of his many trysts. All these major events in the late Sam's life converge with a rash of lethal crimes as Kate wonders what her cherished Old Sam meant in his will to find his father. This is a great Alaskan mystery that fans of the Shugak saga (see A Night Too Dark) will thoroughly enjoy. The story line is fast-paced even when the plot goes back in time to key moments in Old Sam's life that cleverly parallel major events in twentieth century Alaska. The crime frenzy makes for a fine whodunit, but the interweaving of the past makes for a great novel that readers will appreciate. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this series of books! Ms. Stabenow does an excellent job of drawing you into the history of Alaska & weaving a good mystery. There is always something new around the corner! Be sure to start at the beginning of the series, so you can bond with all the characters!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I truly love this series! I'm gonna miss Old Sam, though! I thought this was a great book, and with each new book in the series, Ms. Stabenow's love for her home state comes through with vivid clarity. My favorite way to spend an evening is curled up with another mystery staring Kate and Mutt!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love all the characters. Love learning about Alaska.
sahmomma More than 1 year ago
I have been reading the Kate Shugak series for a long time. It remains interesting and mysterious. Dana Stabenow has allowed the characters to grow, to die, and for new people to come aboard. I can't wait for the next one.
bohemiangirl35 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is my first Kate Shugak novel and my second Dana Stabenow book. I sort of liked the character, but after she was knocked out for the third time in a week, I was a little tired of the plot. It took me a long time to get through this book and when I took a break, I wasn't itching to get back to it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Janientrelac on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
spoiler alert.There is no actual murder, many attempts at Kate' s life, the puzzle is partly why are these people trying to kill her and a puzzle created for Kate to solve by Old Sam, to break her out of a funk. It puzzles me why Stabenow bothered with the sub plot of Jim going to California except it got him out of the way and developed their relationship quite a bit.The Alaskan back ground and history is excellent, everything starts with the horrendous effects of the flu pandemic of 1918.
SunnySD on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Kate's still off-balance - with Old Sam's death she's lost more than a supporter on the native council, she's lost a father. As she begins to dig into the terms of his will, a mystery emerges - one with deep roots, current implications, and deadly consequences. With forays into Old Sam's past, and a side-story involving Chopper Jim's trip back to bury his own father in sunny California, Stabenow has plenty of plot lines running. Kate's conversations with Mutt are enjoyable as ever. And as always, many tangled threads of family ties and native politics remain to be explored in the next book.
KC9333 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fans of Stabenows will cheer...this novel is one of her best. It combines the authors love of Alaska, the great characters we have come to know and an intriguing mystery. Well done.
enemyanniemae on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I received this book back in November. I have only one question: Where has Dana Stabenow been all my life?Though Not Dead is my introduction to Kate Shugak and I felt that I was at a disadvantage not having followed her from the beginning. There were references to past events that I am certain are the subjects of their own books. However, the plot is so rich and meaty that I was more than satisfied.Kate's uncle, known as Old Sam, has died and left his entire estate to her. He leaves instructions for her to give certain items to special people. He also leaves her a note that reads "Find My Father." His request takes her on a quest both dangerous and compelling. Kate gets whacked in the head, shot at, and run off the road and left for dead, all in the space of a few days. She and her wolf dog, Mutt, are not deterred. As she searches the clues that Old Sam left behind, she learns many things about her foster father and his family. He had a homestead deep in secluded mining country. His father was not the man who married his mother. His father was a miner from Outside, a thief who took off with a sacred tribal icon the night of the potlatch for Sam's grandparents, the chief of the village and his wife. The book is rich with Alaskan history and the descriptions of the countryside are breathtaking. Old Sam's life story is also told with relish. He meets many interesting people along the way. This is a book about family. This is a book about knowing who you are and where you came from. And it is an intriguing story, with lots of twists and turns. I am looking forward to going back to the beginning and meeting Kate Shugak again. Dana Stabenow has one more fan.
readinggeek451 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Separately, Kate Shugak and Jim Chopin are dealing with the deaths of father figures and old secrets long buried. Kate's investigation puts her into peril.A return to form after recent disappointments.
BellaMiaow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow. What a great read!I don't give out many 5-star ratings, even to my favorite authors. They should be reserved for really special books. This one counts. I doubt that any information about the book itself would be very meaningful to anyone who hasn't read the previous 17 novels, honestly. I just can't imagine starting any series anywhere but in the beginning, but this work, in particular, will be much more enjoyable if read with the full knowledge of all that has come before.I did enjoy the occasional flashbacks into the past as they occurred. Some authors don't handle that technique well, but Stabenow keeps readers anchored well enough that I never felt whipsawed back and forth.As with the last entry into the Shugak series, the miscreants weren't obvious this time. That's always such a blessing with any mystery! Too many authors either toss in an entire school of obvious red herrings or beat the reader over the head with the identity of the villain, causing me, at least to wonder how the supposed hero could avoid knowing his or her identity too. I always look forward to more books from Stabenow. She's a wonderfully reliable author and will always be on my "Yes! But whatever she puts out NOW!" list.
bgknighton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent addition to the series. Fills in holes in family history, gives more life to other characters in the series, makes you wonder what else they got up to in their younger times.... Sets up Kate as a stronger character and heals her relationship with Mutt.
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