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Play With Fire

(Kate Shugak #5)

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  2,746 ratings  ·  159 reviews
Formerly the star investigator in the Anchorage D.A's office, Kate Shugak now tracks down criminals from her Aleut homestead. But she and her wolf-dog Mutt are taking a June break to pick wild morel mushrooms among the charred trees left by a devastating forest fire. In the ashes Kate also uncovers the mysterious corpse of a naked man. And when she is "hired" by a ten-year ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published May 1st 1996 by Berkley (first published 1995)
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4.10  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,746 ratings  ·  159 reviews

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Jun 16, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a book without a clever twist in sight. Yet it was qualified enough to engage my mind. I'm sure there are people who dislike the book. Or adore it. I give it 3 stars because there are some boring bits in the book.

I don't remember the entire cast of characters in this book, because I gave reading it a break at one point. I think the background of science vs religion was something that needs to happen only once in this series.

The murder of a nude man in nightmarish conditions is difficult
Jul 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Kate finds herself a body and so it begins. Her body magnet is working strong to find this one it's way out in the...... Meanwhile, she is hired into service by a young child looking for his father. His grandfather is a righteous religious holier than all type preacher, with some extreme dangerous ideals. Kate is stuck in the middle of this zealot filled town and her need to solve these mysteries.
I loved this one, the way Kate and Co. dealt with the zealots was fantastic. Organized religion, oy
Lewis Weinstein
Apr 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
Play with Fire offers many charming descriptions of Alaska and Alaskan life. Unfortunately there is little more. It is a murder mystery with no action - zero. Kate just keeps wandering around, remembering her past and visiting her family, making love with old boy friends, picking mushrooms. Eventually, after very little actual detecting, people tell her about the murder. Then the book ends.
Dec 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
I almost skipped this book because of the negative reviews I skimmed on Goodreads. I am glad I didn't. Each book in the series reveals more of Kate's past, fleshes out the secondary characters in the book and builds on the happenings in previous stories and this novel was no different. Most of the negative reviews, it turns out, are from people made uncomfortable by the casting of a reclusive community of fundamentalist evolution-denying book burners in a villainous light, or the characters' med ...more
In the fifth book of a series set in Alaska, featuring native Aleut Kate Shugak, we find her picking Morel mushrooms with some of her friends. Morels bring a substantial price and people flock to Alaska to try and make some extra money. Kate and her friends, Dinah and Bobby, literally stumble on a dead body. He turns out to be local teacher who attempted to explain the evolution theory in his classes. He was never reported missing and seemed to have a very adversarial relationship with his fire ...more
Sep 21, 2012 rated it did not like it
While I have enjoyed the Kate Shugak books in general, this one left a bad taste in my mouth. The mystery part was fine, like all her others, but unlike the others, this one gave no insight or understanding into the opposition. Her first books on native Alaskans, an oil company, crab fishing, etc. were interesting, giving a look into something unfamiliar and even explaining and overcoming stereotypes in most cases. This book's antagonists were a fringe Christian group, but every other character ...more
May 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
I'm re-reading the series (via audiobook), and had to come back and change my rating from 3 stars to 5. The change in format doesn't have anything to do with the new rating, just time.

Fire is, obviously, an important theme in the book, but even more, Stabenow herself plays with fire by taking on organized religion. She's not easy on any, but is especially hard on Christian fundamentalism.

It was saddening to hear a character trifumphantly proclaim how creationism lost in the courts, knowing tha
Carolyn F.
This book was really sad.

SPOILER! That someone deserves death because of God's judgement. Please! God is the judge, not humans. He did not put us on this earth to go around and say, "You're wrong, you're right, you're kind of okay except for this." We'll be judged when we die. IT IS NOT OUR JOB! I hate this most of all because I know it really happens - really no matter what religion you are. This conflict seems so apropos now, over 22 years later. It seems like this world has gotten even worse
Dec 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009-books-read
The fire-ravaged woods hold more than a bumper crop of morel mushrooms. Kate Shugak stumbles across the partially decomposed nude corpse of Dan Seabolt, a teacher who has been missing for more than a year. He's the son of a charismatic fundamentalist preacher, and father of a 10 year old boy who has hired Kate to find his missing father. Kate's investigation into Daniel's death uncovers larger issues: Who controls local education? What's the role of organized religion? Where is the line between ...more
Andy Plonka
Dec 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: src
A bit dated, but a nice look at Alaska, and how the indigenous people interact with the immigrants.
Sylvia McIvers
Delicious mushrooms grow after a fire. There's a hot blond with a camera hanging around out-of-work investigator Kate Shugak, because she ran out of gas while photographing Alaska. Picking 'shrooms at $$$ a pound will get her on the road again. The veteran in a wheel-chair can't get to the mushrooms, but he sure can cook. The body under the mushrooms - OK, how many people will say 'That sounds like a Miss Marple mystery title!'? I lost track ;)

The client is heart breaking. The religious communit
Nov 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
It's amazing how Dana Stabenow changes things up in her plots and weaves bigger issues into murder mysteries. Sample quote:"any form of organized blief in God is an excuse for one person to say to another, 'Belive as I do or you'll go to hell, or I'll burn you at the stake, or I'll kill you and the horse you rode in on and everyone who thinks like you.'"

There are great characters, breezy writing, and consistent plotting--and then Stabenow throws in something extra for the reader to chew on.
Mary Berry
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another great story!

It's a bittersweet end, but there are so many books left in the series, perhaps only justice delayed. Religion is the opiate of the masses...
Contrary to some reviewers’ opinions over the last 20 years, this is not a story in which Dana Stabenow is off on a tirade against organized Christian religion in favor of Alaskan native beliefs. This is a story in which an independent fundamentalist sect has set itself up as the judge, jury and executioner of a man who will not agree to abide by their sect’s beliefs.

This is a story where individuals believe themselves to be the ordained instruments of their God and above the laws of both Alaska
Mar 24, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I had a little trouble reading this book in the series - normally I really enjoy the Kate Shugak stories, but this one left me very disappointed. The author used this book as her own personal rant on Christianity. I say this because there is not one redeeming Christian character in the book. Every Christian talked about, a character who had a bad experience with a Christian, or non-Christians talking in conversations about the crazy whackos who believe this stuff are portrayed as zealous religio ...more
Anne  (Booklady) Molinarolo
While Kate and Dinah are foraying mushrooms, Kate's dog Mutt growls. She's found some remains. The man is naked, but the fire the previous year didn't kill him. Was it an accident? Or Murder?

A 10 year old boy hires Kate to find his father who's been missing for nearly a year. Kate thinks she's already found him. Kate is drawn to the "why" the man was killed more than she's drawn to his identity. Her investigation leads to a small fanatic Christian Church. The dead man's father is their pastor. A
Feb 09, 2016 rated it liked it
This book got off to a really promising start with investigator Kate Shugak stumbling onto a corpse while mushroom picking in an Alaskan forest. A young boy hires her to find his missing father and Shugak discovers they're all mixed up with a fundamentalist sect. Was the death accidental or murderous retaliation? The other good thing in this book is that you get more of Kate's back story with a visit to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where she recalls her years as a student.

Unfortunately, S
Stabenow, Dana - 5th in kate Shugak series

When P.I. Kate Shugak discovers a decomposed body in the forest fire-ravaged woods of Chistona, Alaska, her investigation leads her to a close-knit community whose rigid ideas and beliefs don't allow for opposition. With little to go on but her gut feeling, Kate delves into this group to try and root out a murderer.

1996 Top Read - This series gets better and better and this was her best so far. It's more serious than her previous books
Mar 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
I have generally enjoyed this series. However, I was disappointed with this book. It portrayed a caricature of Christianity. It didn't just disagree with it; it demonized it. Certainly, if you look hard enough, you could probably find people that fit the stereotypes portrayed (for instance, Westburo Baptist Church). However, this book made it seem like that was the norm and not the fringe.

I will keep reading the series, because this one seems like an outlier.
Jul 05, 2016 rated it it was ok
The mystery was interesting enough, however the wholesale bashing of Christianity based on an encounter with a fringe cult group became tiresome. I also found the constant reference of people "from states beginning and ending with vowels" as red-necks offensive.

In Shugak's world it appears to be okay to dish out lots of prejuidice.
Jun 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime-detective
Out foraging for morel mushrooms, the result of a massive forest fire, Kate Shugak discovers a naked, decomposing body. As it turns out the body belongs to a science teacher, run off by his pious community for teaching evolution. During the investigation, we are provided further insight into Kate's unique personality.
Aug 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one seems to be more background on Kate and less mystery, definitely enjoyed it despite the somewhat slower pace. Plus I love that the ending was not tidy at all despite having wished for it the most with this one. Off to the next!
Jan 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
Kate Shugak is turning out to stick in my head as an interesting heroine. Progressive, independent values clearly shared by the author, fascinating Alaskan setting and characters. Ocassionally a bit preachy.
Jun 15, 2018 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
I very much enjoy this series, but this but no so much.

In this book Kate is hired by a boy to find his father who disappeared a year ago. Only Kate has just discovered a body while out picking mushrooms and no one has reported anyone as missing from the small town. In true Kate Shugak fashion she is unable to let this go until she knows what happened and why. Kate finds herself in the middle of a battle with a fundamentalist church and the public school system in the small town with a teacher ca
Jan 21, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-fiction
A surprising choice for me, not generally being a fan of the mystery genre, though I am a fan of stories set in America. It was an easy read, but the plot was a bit hollow and too focused on pointing out the failures of religious fundamentalists.

I have never heard of this series before, but this was in the Strong, Independent Woman mould. Unfortunately, this story featured far too many scenes poking holes in the Bible and the teaching of creationism. The issue wasn't that it was included at all,
Mar 18, 2019 rated it did not like it
This was the fourth book I’ve read by this author. I enjoyed the others quite a bit, but this one was just terrible. There was really no mystery or plot after the first few chapters. The constant bashing of Christianity was irritating and as it continued on throughout almost the whole book it became tedious. I also didn’t like all the insulting descriptions of people from the southern states. I think I could have overlooked some of that if the book had been interesting at all, but it was just of ...more
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Yes indeed I had read this previously, merely before I started tracking my reads on Goodreads.
It must have been 20 or 25 years ago, before the harvesting of black morels after a forest fire meant as much to me.
But the extremes and excesses of religious bigotry--killing is good if you think God wills it, or your preacher tells you so--is fully as chilling today as a couple decades ago. Maybe moreso.
Marco Van Lieshout
Of God and murder

As always a really well written story. But the deeper notes about God and fanatics, mingling with the intense visions of nature and the clan make this story a special one.

I have to go out and stare at far horizons for a while to get this out of my blood.

Well done. Truly well done.
Tessa in Mid-Michigan
One star lost to the excessive portrayal of the fundamentalist sect. This is a popular theme among those who aren't Christian, but not popular with me. Although I'm sure weird stuff goes on out in the remote places, the bush, even down here. But the cities have their share of it too, nowadays.

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Around the Year i...: Play With Fire, by Dana Stabenow 1 7 Oct 01, 2018 01:04PM  
The Danamaniacs: Play With Fire *SPOILERS* 1 7 May 08, 2013 08:21PM  

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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.

Other books in the series

Kate Shugak (1 - 10 of 22 books)
  • A Cold Day For Murder (Kate Shugak, #1)
  • A Fatal Thaw (Kate Shugak, #2)
  • Dead In The Water (Kate Shugak, #3)
  • A Cold-Blooded Business (Kate Shugak, #4)
  • Blood Will Tell (Kate Shugak, #6)
  • Breakup (Kate Shugak, #7)
  • Killing Grounds (Kate Shugak, #8)
  • Hunter's Moon (Kate Shugak, #9)
  • Midnight Come Again (Kate Shugak, #10)
  • The Singing Of The Dead (Kate Shugak, #11)
“Where were they from originally? The Seabolts?"
"I don't know, Idaho, Oklahoma, Iowa. One of those red-neck states with vowels on both ends."
"You mean like Alaska?”
More quotes…