Thursday, April 7, 2011

A fun new series (for me): Wind River Reservation Mysteries

It's no secret that my favorite fiction genre is the mystery, and I'm especially fond of mysteries that have good characters, well-developed plots, and interesting settings. The true bonus comes when these mysteries form part of long running, on-going series and  the author doesn't get stale and run out of gas. This past week I've read two more from a writer I just discovered late last year, Margaret Coel. I'm becoming very fond of the two main characters - Fr. John O'Malley, a Jesuit from Boston who finds himself recovering from alcholism as the resident priest at an Arapaho reservation, and Vicki Holden, an Arapaho lawyer who becomes involved with crime, criminals, and whose feelings for Fr. O'Malley promise (threaten?) to provide us with quite an interesting relationship as the series develops.

Author: Margaret Coel
Publisher/Format: Books in Motion audio books, 
Narrator: Stephanie Brush
Characters: Fr. John  O'Malley
Subject: Murder, life on an Indian Reservation
Setting: ficitional Indian Reservation in Wyoming
Series: Wind River Reservation mysteries
Genre: amateur detective
Source: public library audio download

Coel manages to give us an excellent picture of the traditions, rituals, beliefs, and utter despair sometimes experienced by Native Americans remaining on reservations with little economic opportunity to improve their lives.  Through the eyes of O'Malley and Holden, along with the Bureau of Indian Affairs Police Chief, the Indian housekeeper Elena, and various tribal elders, we are invited in to experience the beauty of the high plains and the hope and desperation of generations trying to maintain a way of life in danger of disappearing in the name of progress.  I read the first one in the series, The Eagle Catcher, last October, and decided to see if the series was worth pursuing.  They definitely were.

The Fr. John O'Malley character combines  the humanity and vunerability of  J.A. Jance's J.P. Beaumont with the understanding and acceptance of a Van Alstyne or a Brunetti; the settings are reminiscent of Tony Hillerman, or Nevada Barr and the plots are just unique and involved enough to carry the reader from page to page without the hair twisting psychological drama so many current writers seem to be enamored of.  Coel's respect for Indian traditions and rituals is very apparent and is allowed to stand along with and blend well with the Christian ethic espoused by the Jesuits.  The stunning presentations of human frailties, life's big and small problems, along with good police and detective work, and just a hint of romance (or at least good strong friendship) make them winners for me.  I will definitely be looking for the rest of the series - there are 15 in all.


  1. Wow, this sounds like a series I would love, especially since you compared it with some of my favorite writers. I'm fascinated by Indian culture and customs - their comfort in nature and their respect for the earth and its beings commands my own respect.

  2. 15! No, I will not start a series that already has 15 books ahead of me.


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