Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Books: So Sure of Death, by Dana Stabenow

I've read all but one of Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak mysteries, and the exception is only because that one is out of print and my efforts to get a used copy have failed so far. So now I'm moving on to her Liam Campbell series. I'm reading them entirely out of order; I've read at least two that come chronologically after this one.

I like them all. (Though I prefer Kate.) I like them so much that they turn my mind to the whole "genre fiction"/"literary fiction" conflict. I assume that Dana Stabenow's mysteries are genre fiction, and that I'm therefore supposed to blush a little bit about reading them, and claim that I only take them to the beach. I'm supposed to see genre fiction as the Cheetos of literature, right? Overflavored, oversalted, and with orange powdery stuff that will stay with me and rub off on thoughts generated by finer literature.


Now, there are some genre fiction novels that I do see as the equivalent of...well, not Cheetos, actually; I find Cheetos to be a very fine experience of their type. Maybe the equivalent of those dubious generic imitations of Hostess snack cakes. Vaguely pleasing, nominally fulfilling expectations, but with a disappointing aftertaste that makes you want to go eat something else. (Like a Cheeto.) Vaguely likable people in those stories have cute thoughts about cats or dogs or recipes or home improvement or real estate or expensive shoes, and meanwhile somebody gets murdered. (Oh. Yes. While I'm generalizing my thoughts to fiction in general, the "genre" that I'm talking about here is murder mysteries. We've met, right?)

But Dana Stabenow's mysteries have those moments that make you say, for example, "Oh, my God, he said that to Kate?! He's doomed. Just doomed. Huh? Don't interrupt me, I'm reading!"

And to me, a book that gets you bug-eyed and gawpish about a character, based purely on the character rather than on exploding helicopters or stashes of drugs, can look literary fiction in the face and say, "Feh."

Um. I guess that's about all. I suppose I should really say six or eight words about the actual books, huh? They're set in Alaska, modern day. There's a lot of crime and politics and a moderate amount of sex. Often there's food. There's a wolf. But only half. Read 'em. They're fun.

That is all.

Image: Wikimedia Commons.


  1. I'm definitely going to quote you on the 'feh'. I think my books speak to me in similar ways. I read young adult fiction and while I often question the nutritional merit, there's great comfort in having a book that speaks to me and brings the fun.

  2. I'm in!
    I mean, I want to read them. :)

  3. Yo, Cynthia! Yes. Nutritional merit is often not so much the point.

  4. Ines! Read 'em yep yep. I wish that she had written two or three times as many.