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Play with Fire (Kate Shugak Mystery) Mass Market Paperback – May 1, 1996


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Product Details

  • Series: Kate Shugak Mystery
  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley; 1ST edition (May 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425152545
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425152546
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 4.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #694,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The crisp crunch of snow gives way to mosquitos and mushrooms as both cold weather-loving Kate Shugak and her latest adventure wilt in the warmth of an Alaskan June. Kate and photojournalist Dinah Cookman are harvesting forest mushrooms when they discover a naked, much-decomposed corpse and call in a trooper, who says that no one within 100 miles has been reported missing in the last year. But then the grandson of the local Bible-thumping preacher asks Kate to find his missing father, Daniel. The corpse is identified as the boy's father's and, while the police suspect no foul play, Kate wonders how the man died. Few share her curiosity: the boy asks her to stop investigating, and other locals answer her questions evasively. Then a gang of thugs wrecks her camp and injures Dinah. Even readers sympathetic to Stabenow's (A Cold-Blooded Business) plot-linked message on religious intolerance will struggle with the crudely inserted mushroom lore and other extraneous material that doesn't even yield a credible red herring. Maybe the likable Kate will perk up again when the temperature plummets. Author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

While picking morels in an area recently burned by forest fire, series protagonist Kate Shugak (A Cold Day for Murder, Berkeley, 1992) discovers a body covered in ashes and mushrooms. Attempts to identify the man coincide with Shugak's search for a local boy's missing father-a teacher ostracized by his father's Jerry Falwell-type community. As in previous titles, Stabenow utilizes police procedural connections via Alaskan troopers, endows her writing with admirable sensory desciptions of flora and fauna, and provides unusual settings for her deceptively simple plot. A fine selection.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Dana Stabenow was born in Anchorage and raised on 75-foot fish tender in the Gulf of Alaska. She knew there was a warmer, drier job out there somewhere and found it in writing.

Her first science fiction novel, Second Star, sank without a trace (but has since been resurrected as an e-book), her first crime fiction novel, A Cold Day for Murder, won an Edgar award, her first thriller, Blindfold Game, hit the New York Times bestseller list, and her twenty-eighth novel and nineteenth Kate Shugak novel, Restless in the Grave, was published February 14, 2012.

Customer Reviews

No red herrings, no other suspects.
Marilyn Domer
This seemed less of a mystery novel and more of an attempt to promote her ideas on religion in general and strict biblical faiths in particular.
M. Clark
Since I don't know and am not going to buy it and read it I will end my comments.
play fair

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Carol Peterson Hennekens on October 3, 2001
Format: Audio Cassette
I'm a big fan of the Kate Shugak series and thought Hunter's Moon was one of the best page turners in a long while. It inspired me to go back to some of her earlier novels. The good news is that Stabenow gets better with time. The bad news is that some of the early stuff is pretty weak. The basic problem with this book is that there isn't much mystery. A man goes missing for ten months and no one reports it? When found, his body is naked and he's died from mosquito bites. He's the son of the local fundamentalist minister. 300 pages later we find out who killed him.
The basic problem with this book is that for every page that moves the plot forward, Stabenow includes ten essentially irrelevant pages. The ramblings range from entertaining (does musak justify homicide?) to tedious (an encyclopedia excerpt on mushrooms) to touching (Kate's memories of going to college). There's much discussion on religion and education. These are two topics of interest to me so I didn't mind that they were mostly off topic. Other readers may be justifiably less tolerant.
Bottom-line: Many musings and not much mystery. Stabenow can do(and has done)better.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Susan R. Cakars on September 6, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
In this book, Kate Shugak finds a body while picking mushrooms. It turns out to be the body of a person who has been missing for quite awhile, but whose father never reported him missing.
Kate is always arrogant with her beliefs, but this book really goes too far. I fully agree with Dana Stabenow's views on religious fundamental extremists. However, she goes too far when she starts trashing all religion and people who believe in them.
I really liked Kate's remembrances of her first year of college and of the professor who turned her on to literature. But none of this makes up for all her preaching against religion, people from other states, people who listen to different music, etc.
The mystery itself is unsatisfying, too. I agree with the other reviewer who lamented the lack of suspects, red herrings, etc.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By "barnard7" on December 29, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
If you like Stabenow and you like Kate Shugak, don't let the reviews scare you off! Yes -- Stabenow takes on creationism and fanatical christians. Do you really think that an Alaska Native, like Kate, would find such beliefs appealing?
The story is interesting and the glimpses into what makes Kate tick will please devoted Stabenow fans.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By mystery lover on July 9, 2010
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Before reading this book I'd read several others in her Kate Shugak series and loved most of them ("A Grave Denied" being my favorite so far). Although from time to time I'd pick up on the author's own evident biases, I was able to overlook them because the characters were interesting and the plots often riveting. However, I was quite taken aback by the unabashed proselytizing in this book. According to the author, you'd think all Christians are fanatics, all midwesterners rednecks (in its most sterotyped form), and all people living below the Mason-Dixon line intellectually challenged racists. You can find any of these types of people anywhere in the world, but Ms. Stabenow would seem to harbor some deep psychological hatred against these particular groups. I found myself rushing through these particular passages (of which there are WAY too many) to try to get back to the plot, such as it was. Honestly, at times I nearly forgot what the actual plot was. I'm hoping whatever demons Ms. Stabenow had were purged in this book and she gets back to doing what she does best -- development of strong and interesting characters and fast-paced plots, interwoven with fascinating segues into Alaskan history, culture and geography. And Mutt the Superdog, one of the most endearing canines in all of current fiction! Everyone needs a Mutt of their very own!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By K. A. Baird on December 11, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Like other reveiwers, I actually like Stabenow. Her Kate Shugak series, which I am currently reading through, is fun and inviting and gives you a glimpse of the last frontier from a insider perspective. While the main antagonist, Kate Shugak can be a bit preachy and opinionated, she did seem mostly fair, and the plots usually revolve around her solving some murder with that being the main focus of the story. This story was awful. It started out odd, what with all the quotes about mushrooms and having Kate and Bobby pick up a stray who is constantly quoting the bible for no apparent reason. The murder itself was a not very interesting plot device for the unabashed proselytizing that hijacks the rest of the book.

It struck me as really odd that this book celebrates the religion of the Native population while sterotyping almost everyone else in the lower 48 - city dwellers, rednecks and Christians all get heavy-handed treatments that read like caricatures of Americans from some Communist country during cold war. There was no mystery in the mystery, the characters were all one-dimensional cutouts and the preaching had me skipping ahead on my Kindle. DRIVEL.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Wendy Kaplan on May 10, 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
The plot in this fifth entry in the wonderful Kate Shugak series is light on mystery, but as with every book so far, provides the most fascinating glimpses into Native Alaskan lore.
Kate has forayed into the remains of a massive forest fire to pick mushrooms, which are springing up everywhere in the lush loam left behind by the charred trees and undergrowth. It's back-breaking work, but highly lucrative, and Kate is joined by her paraplegic Vietnam Vet friend Bobby, and his new lover, a bright-eyed young photographer named Dinah, whose enthusiasm wins Kate over.
It is while Kate and Dinah are hard at work at picking (Kate) and snapping (Dinah) that Kate makes a nauseating and horrific discovery: Under a particularly lush growth of mushrooms lies a badly decomposing body. Kate's subsequent inquiry into the identity of the victim and the manner of his death leads her into a mosquitos' nest (literally) of dangerously unstable religious fanatics. It's a situation that doesn't sit well with Kate as a professional PI, or with Kate as a native Aleut, with religious views quite different than those espoused by the narrow-minded group who are opposing her investigation.
Another fine, fast read in the series; highly recommended, as always.
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