The History of Kate Shugak in 21 Objects – 1

WARNING: Spoilers spoken here.



1. Game Bag

At first I was thinking a moose, because Abel hides the body in a game bag and Kate naturally mistakes it for a haunch of moose because what else would be in there? Then later, Kate thinks Martin killed Ken Dahl because Axenia hears Martin throwing something heavy into the creek, but it turns out it was a moose he hit and killed and he doesn’t want to get caught with it in the back of his pickup. Lastly there is that scene where Kate and Jack are driving out to the Lost Wife Mine and find a wolverine chewing on a downed moose calf. I’d call that a theme.

But Kate has close encounters with moose throughout the Kate Shugak series, including that time at the beginning of Blood Will Tell when she gets her annual moose in her own front yard. The moose in Alaska is so ubiquitous it should be the Alaska state mammal. Oh wait, look, it is. I wanted an object more specific to A Cold Day for Murder, and something significant to the mystery itself. I wanted (yes, I’m going to say it) —

— a clue.

That is one honking big clue there in Abel’s front yard. It’s the first thing Kate sees when she leaves her homestead for the first time back on the job in eighteen months, and it’s what closes the case for her when she finally connects all the dots. It’s just extra that a game bag is iconic Alaskana in and of itself.

So then I had to go on an image hunt. If you google “game bags” you get over 114 million hits. Click on “Images” and you can scroll down forever. Game bags are available everywhere, even on Amazon, but Cabela’s won the image race because they had a picture of a guy holding one up so the non-hunters among you could get an idea of size.

Cabela’s Deluxe Game Bag

But that looks a little pristine. I googled some more and found a picture of game bags in actual use.


Well? What else would be in there?

Kate22 cover art

The 22nd Kate Shugak novel, coming January 9, 2020.


Chatter Kate Shugak Uncategorized

Dana View All →

Author and founder of

102 Comments Leave a comment

  1. This is a wonderful idea – only wish you had started it at the beginning of winter – but I am not complaining. Any excuse to revisit some of the best reads I have enjoyed is fine by me.

  2. Love this idea – great to see a game bag when new and when “working” 🙂
    For “A Fatal Thaw” I think the item could be a rifle.

  3. This is very cool. I’ll collect these for my non-techie mother, a devout lover of all things Kate (she has the only shopping bag in the retirement home with the phrase, “That’s some f–ing doorman you’ve got there.”)

  4. OMG, so many many things. Let me think of something *specific* to A Fatal Thaw. OOh, or should I suggest something that we ‘see’ again in the other books? <>>
    How about Jim’s Bell Jet Ranger?

  5. What a great idea! I am rereading Breakup right now because it’s so funny and I need a laugh right now, and I agree on the engine… Or Mandy’s truck.

  6. I have read the entire wonderful series twice. In my next life, I want to be Kate (and since I’m 65, that could happen soon…lol.) I will review A Fatal Thaw and send a suggestion. Thank you so much for all of the hours of truly pleasurable reading! (I have also enjoyed the Silk Road books, too.)

  7. Have so enjoyed all the Kate Shugak books. Thank you. It will be fun to see what objects everybody chooses.

  8. I started rereading the series of Kate Shugak, today, with “A Cold Day For Murder” !! And then I saw this “The history of Kate Shugak in 20 Objects” on Facebook! Love the stories! Really like the “…20 Objects ” ! What a fantastic first clue: Game Bag ! Thanks, Dana, for the wonderful Kate Shugak series! And, thanks for keeping out sex scenes, which get in the way of the flow of the storyline!

  9. I haven’t read the other responses, so if I am yet another in line, I apologize. I thought about this yesterday. It needed to be something that you kept coming back to, and it needed to bring everything together. Kate’s rifle holds pride of place in her cabin. McAniff’s tour of slaughter, Lottie Getty.

    I need to tell you that the first time I read this book, when Mutt howls along with Lottie, goose bumps hit me, and I needed to put the book aside and think about what I’d just read. The despair was overwhelming! It seemed to always be there in the book, just out of range of obviousness. And, then there was Chapter 10, and your description of Kate, aching, sad, Kate, and her healing dance with the aurora atop the mountain brought me to tears, and I realized that this Stabenow person was one heck of a wordsmith.

    So, I had the words rifle, howl, aurora and despair. I couldn’t choose the words howl and despair, as they are not objects, and aurora wasn’t really throughout the book, although the use of it was so very powerful. “Rifle” needed to be chosen. So I did.

  10. Oooooh! A great excuse to visit with Kate again! I have to agree… Kate’s rifle was the first thing I thought of as well. What fun! Thanks 🙂

  11. probably too little, too late, but the Pendelton shirt does it for me. I’m visual & this marked Roger McAniff & A Fatal Thaw for me.

  12. egads! I have read all of the Kate Shugak books, but it has been so long ago, I forgot all the details. I guess I COULD go back and re-read them all again, but I never do that with any book. SIGH!

  13. Hi Dana! A discussion came up on “Danamaniacs – The Spoiler Page” that I think will apply to your request for an object for ‘A Fatal Thaw’. One of our members asked “about the fuel store used at Kate’s cabin. I’m visualizing an x-shaped cradle containing three or six 55-gallon drums, one on the bottom, two on the next layer, and maybe three on top of that, all laying on their sides. Is that right? How are they connected to one another so that they can all be easily filled? Is each drum filled separately? Or are they connected somehow so that you put fuel in the top drum and it flows “downhill” into the lower drums until all the drums are filled? A diagram or photo would be more than I could possibly hope for.”
    So far, no one has been able to answer his questions. I suggested we submit this to you as a ‘Kate Object’. In the very beginning of ‘A Fatal Thaw’, it is the first nice day of Spring and Kate goes out to her garage to check her equipment and the fuel level in her tanks. I imagine most of the others living in the Park are doing the same thing.

  14. Pardon me, Dana, but how does one get a Mutt bag with the full “doorman” inscription on it? The Zazzle store says nothing about the inscription, and the pictures of Mutt bags they have show only your signature. Thank you!
    (P.S. For Breakup, I keep thinking about one object that stands out in my head, and it’s the turbine blade that missed Kate and stuck in the wall.)

  15. First thing I thought of was “bear bladders.” They represent the nasty that was underpinning all the other events that that “Princess” Getty created, and got Kate shot, and illuminated the greed and decadence of desire pressing in from Outside.

  16. I finally had a chance to reread (thank you, Spring Break!) with this prompt in mind. I immediately seized on the Darigold Butter can from the center of the table. I feel like it’s perfect. It all goes back to money and love. Since we tend to eat with those we love…. 🙂 Thanks!

  17. Just finishing reading all the Kate books for the 4th time. I’d love to take an Alaska cruise with you and all Kate Shugak lovers. Might that be possible?

  18. Dana, I love that Jim lands just long enough to yell to Kate about the crazy guy on the snow machine heading her way. I think the object should be his Bell Jet Ranger.

  19. Well, dang. I reread that book looking for something that hadn’t been suggested, and came up with Middle Finger. I know you explained it very well in the book, but where did the idea come from? The Sour Toe in Dawson City? (No, I didn’t do it when i was there a couple of years ago!)

  20. Kate bakes bread to relieve her stress and frustrations so I’m going to say a bread pan would be a good clue!

  21. For Breakup, definitely the 747 engine. (And now I need to do some re-reading. Again.) (Anyway, I probably need a break from the compulsive Terry Pratchett re-reads.)


    • And it’s your fault I was laughing rather hysterially at 2 am, hoping I didn’t wake the neighbors up… Vachel Lindsay. Oh *lord*. But the rules for this are an object, right? (Also, for Breakup… bear spray…)

  22. Reread “A Fatal Thaw” with this in mind. My choice would be a 30.06.

    BTW, I recently did a little research into the McCarthy massacre that was the starting point for this book. Fascinating, Dana, how you took a real-life tragedy and spun it into Kate’s world.

    Also, rereading the books not one right after another is giving me the chance to notice things, like, “Oh, here’s Old Sam’s first appearance.”

    Looking forward to “Dead in the Water,” and, of course, anxiously waiting for Kate #21.

  23. Hello Dana, Have read all the Kate Shugak books twice and plan on reading them a third time. One thing on my bucket list and that was to go to Alaska. Due to health issues can no longer leave my home but feel as if I have traveled all through Alaska with Kate as my travel guide. Thank you Dana.
    Was physically sick after reading BAD BLOOD first time hoping that would not be the end of Kate and Mutt. Can hardly wait for next book so afraid I will die (I am 69 y/o) before it comes out. Any ideal of release date?
    About to start reading series again, know I will read something I didn’t catch last time I read them. Clues, clues, clues.
    Please keep writting about Alaska and Kate and Mutt. Feel as if they are part of my family.

  24. I think I will start rereading the series. I’ve forgotten more than I remember. Each month a new (sort of) one. Providing I can wait a month. Hurry up with the newest one!

  25. Off topic but I see nowhere else to mention it. As a FFL holder for many years I can say you do much better than most authors dealing with firearm issues. I don’t think you have ever mentioned the “smell of cordite,” a propellant that has not been in use for 50 – 100 years or so as just about every author does – and shame on them for this stupidity. But how in the world does a person look at a bolt action rifle and know it is a .30/30, as happens in Bad Blood? Answer: it isn’t possible. Since you almost certainly know that it seems much of this book was drafted by someone else, an observation that seems to be endemic on Amazon. If not then I do wonder how you could make such a mistake, which is simply an annoyance to anyone knowledgeable about firearms and detracts from the book.

  26. I accept all your comments about reading s-l-o-w-l-y BUT Bad Blood was published on February 26th 2013
    I live in the UK where it is now 3rd March 2015
    So I suggest that two years is more than enough time for the next (last) book to arrive
    At the very least to sort out all the loose ends
    No more prevarication!

  27. Is there going to be another book after Bad Blood???? I just have to know what happens to Mutt and Kate………….

  28. I have read all the Kate books at least 5 times. That seemed a little compulsive so I vowed to lay off until the new book comes out. That was about 18 months ago. So I couldn’t stay away. I missed everyone too much. Disclaimer: only read Bad Blood once. Can’t read it again until I have the new book to go on with. Thanks, Dana for so many hours of pure enjoyment. Sometimes I read out loud to myself because your use of language is so moving and distinctive.

  29. I’m on book 11 now and show no signs of slowing down. Kate is a wonderful character. I love stories set in Alaska, especially when they offer a look into real life up there.

  30. I have been waiting so loooong for Kate’s return, and object blog is an excellent way to revisit Kate’s novels. Thanks, Dana

  31. I have enjoyed and been completely enthralled with Kate’s story ever since I read your 1st book in the series. I have waited impatiently for the next each time I finish one. Now that I am taking care of my mother full time I was able to introduce her to your Kate Shugak series and although it is not a genre she would normally read, after she read the series from the beginning, the next book is one of the few things she is looking forward to reading. Wish it was coming out sooner, her 80th birthday is September and with her health limitations it is wonderful to see her excited about something. Really great series, wonderful back story and history that you put so much work into. Please, please write more and maybe more often on this Alaskan woman of such strength, kindness and true morality. Thanks Dana, for your beautiful stories. Please don’t let this next book be the last in the series.

  32. For me…it will always be Kate’s healing dance…which I have fashioned as something on my ow when needs ust!

    As for the game bags…this is probably a stupid question, but why aren’t they lined with something…I would think all those fluids would encourage unwanted dinner guests…or would the meat spoil?

  33. I love your books and recommend them at my library frequently. Best yet is I can share them with my grandpa as long as I make sure we have the talking books. (He has trouble reading books with place names that are hard to read but enjoys the storyline with a bit of helps.)

  34. For me the object for Breakup would be Mandy/Kate’s new truck.
    Absolutely love your Kate and Liam. Have read thru all of them except Hunters Moon and Bad Blood 5 times.
    Every time I read about Aunties Lumpia I have to make some. I grew up in the Philippines and make some of the best Lumpia.
    With tee New book coming out in May it is time to read through them again .

  35. I am in love with your Kate Shugak novels. I am like a kid on Christmas morning when I get a new book in the mail. I just ordered your latest LESS THAN A TREASON!!!! I impatiently await its arrival, please don’t stop I own every book in the series and have encouraged many to purchase your books. Thank you for taking me to Alaska with every book. I live in Louisiana and only have one item on my bucket list and that is to visit your great state!

  36. Dana,

    My son is a Coastie. He was recently stationed in Cordova, Alaska. I took the long road to Alaska via a Green Tortoise 27-day tour from San Francisco to Anchorage, arriving 7,5,2019. Flight next day to Cordova. Because of your Kate books, I know what a fish wheel is. I know what gill netting is. I know about the struggle between the subsistence fishermen, the state, and the commercial fishermen. I have heard about the Chugach mountains. Being in Cordova for a week has given me first-hand experiences with the aforementioned. Because of you and Kate, I have more knowledge than most people about Alaska. Thank you. And I’m really looking forward to Kate 22!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: