The History of Kate Shugak in 22 Objects – 4

WARNING: Spoilers spoken here.

Kate_Cover_044 – Ivory Otter

The votes are in, and the object from the forth Kate Shugak novel, A Cold-Blooded Business, is the little ivory otter (although I was tempted to make it the turtle). Kate bought her otter at Alaska Native Arts & Crafts, which was a real store at the Sunshine Mall on Fourth Avenue in Anchorage. The store is no longer there, alas, but the proprietor, Pauline, was a lovely woman from Southeast who always wore a frog pin as she was a member of the Tlingit Frog Clan. I liked visiting with her so much that I put her in the book.

Wilson Oozeva, who carved Kate’s otter, was a real Alaska Native artist from Gambell. You can see more of his work here. There are a lot of amazingly talented carvers and he was one of the best.

…an ivory otter caught her eye. Up on his hind legs in the midst of a menagerie sculpted from soapstone, antler, jade and wood, tiny paws held just so, thick tail disposed in a graceful curve, whiskers immaculately groomed, he stood just three inches high, black eyes bright with curiosity, every detail faithfully and exquisitely rendered. He was irresistible.

ivory otter

This as you can see from the description in the quotation above, is not Kate’s otter, but he is the inspiration for him and, like Kate’s otter, he was carved by Wilson Oozeva. He lives with my friends Bob and Mary. I house-sat for them when they went Outside for three weeks, and this otter sat on the desk next to me as I worked on A Cold-Blooded Business. We totally bonded, and his spiritual child wound up in Kate’s pocket.

K&K's otter

Here’s the otter who does live with me, a gift from my friends Kathy and Kevin. He doesn’t fit in my pocket.

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34 Comments Leave a comment

  1. I think I’ll go with the hunter’s tunic that hangs on the wall of the store. This symbolizes everything which Pastor Seabolt is against.

  2. Thank you so much for writing this series. I can get lost in these stories and hate coming back to reality. Kate is much appreciated and hope there will be more soon.

  3. I love the idea of the hunter’s tunic Marty mentioned above, but I think I have to go with a morel mushroom for this book’s object–which, btw, I’ll probably never be able to eat again without pause thank you very much.

  4. I agree with the hunter’s tunic. The thought of it being thrown on the bonfire is the reason I don’t re-read this book like I do the others. The symbol of the evil that is religious ferver.

  5. Morel Mushroom’s. Without the mushrooms Kate and Bobby would have not met Dinah and would not have found Daniel Seabolt. Without a body, no mystery to solve. So it has to be the muschrooms.
    I’ve enjoyed doing this exercise, been re-reading all the Kate’s and making a list. I got side tracked with the release of Craig Johnson’s new Longmire, but I’m to Restless In The Grave and I’ve got a few months before we get there.

  6. ….Play with Fire was book 5? Wow. I guess i knew that academically, but when I started reading your books, only the first four were out, so I’ve had Play with Fire filed under “the new Kate Shugak” in my head . First one I bought for myself instead of borrowing from my mother.

    And now I have to read it again! I vote hunter’s tunic, by the by. It’s significant.

  7. I understand the suggestion for morel mushrooms but I am so allergic to them that I can’t possibly agree. Since I really hate the idea of anyone banning and burning books much less cultural heritage items that I would have to vote for the tunic. I cried when I read that scene.

  8. As a quilter and sewist I go for the tunic. As said before .. the destroying of cultural heritage is not good.
    I started reading these books on the Alcan Highway in 1995. I had the first 3 and they set the mood for the trip. I’ve read every one, many more than once. I’m looking forward to the next. I have no idea how it will all turn out. Life changes between one heartbeat and the next. I’m sure whatever way things go the story will be rewarding.

  9. It has to be the tunic for me too Dana. I can understand why so many people are saying the mushrooms in fairness but the scene that is burned into my brain is the bonfire with the books being thrown on and then the tunic with the pain and horror it caused Kate. Bobby holding her back from the fire and the Reverend and his followers. It is such a powerful moment in the book. As an aside the poodle being taken by the eagle (was it? ) after the woman being kicked by the moose was also a great scene and Kate doubling over in laughter after they drive off and Jim coming across her in this mood. To finish I am glad you went with the otter and enjoyed your piece above.

  10. Although there are mushrooms all over the book and the hunter’s tunic appears only twice, the choice has to be the tunic. This whole project is a HISTORY of Kate, and the mushrooms don’t have anything in particular to do with who she is. The tunic, OTOH, is emblematic of Kate and her culture, as well as a focal point for the theme of the book, which, as I see it, is the evil of fanatic religion. There is an echo of the symbolism of the tunic also when Auntie Joy so movingly describes trying to explain the cultural significance of button blankets and totems to Seabolt, only to be slapped down in a very unchristian-like manner.

  11. While I understand the choices of the mushrooms and the hunter’s tunic, I have another choice. Mosquitos — those ubiquitous Alaska birds — and the vehicle of death for this book.

  12. The morel mushroom is definitely the object for this book. The mushroom is a a symbol of immortality in some cultures. This being the very thing that Reverend Seabold was using to control his congregation, the chance of immortality.

  13. I’m a rabid reader of your Kate Shugak books and have read every one to date. Wish you would continue the series, and YES, I’m whining. Seems to me you would be grateful to have the talent/ability that your reader would whine for their favorites..

  14. When oh when will the 2017 Kate book reach England,.I’ve read the 20 others and am missing Kate, Bobby , the snow , bears, moose all park life.

    • Barbara, I’ve taken the liberty of signing you up for the Roadhouse Report, because you’re a little behind on the news. Kate21 comes out on May 6, simultaneously published in the US and the UK/Commonwealth. There will be a newsletter in a few days with buy links. (There is an unsubscribe link at both top and bottom, you don’t have to keep getting it if you don’t want to.) You also might like to join the Danamaniacs on Facebook,, because they get all the news first.

  15. The tunic made me cry. So similar to when the missionaries came here, Elder still tell those stories and it hurts yet. The tunic is a big symbol. Morels would be the second choice.

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