Sunday, October 07, 2007

Pg. 69: Margaret Coel's "The Girl With Braided Hair"

The latest entry in the Page 69 Test series: Margaret Coel's The Girl With Braided Hair.

About the book, from the author's website:
The skeleton of a young woman is discovered in a dry gully on the Wind River Reservation. Remnants of a long, black braid are mixed with the bones. There is a bullet hole in the skull. Forensics determine the woman was shot-to-death in 1973.

1973, the year of AIM. The American Indian Movement had occupied the town of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Afterward, Indians under federal indictment had gone into hiding on other reservations, including Wind River. A year of fear and violence, when no one could be trusted, when anyone might be an FBI snitch.

Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden and Father John O'Malley are determined to find the identity of the forgotten woman and see that she is laid to rest in the traditional Arapaho Way. Their search leads them into the 1970s and the dark underbelly of an organization that had spoken out on behalf of Indian rights. They soon run into a wall of silence. No one wants to talk about a time when many crimes, including murder, went unsolved. No one wants to admit the part they may have played, or the guilt they may still carry. No one wants to remember a young woman accused of being a snitch.

As the life and death of the woman begin to come into view, Vicky and Father John realize that the killer who has gotten away with murder for more than thirty years is still on the reservation and that they are about to be his next victims.
Among the praise for the novel:
"Coel's 13th Wind River mystery (after 2006's The Drowning Man) is far more engaging than its bland title might suggest. The discovery of skeletal remains still bearing a long dark braid of hair opens deep wounds among the Native Americans who live on Wyoming's Wind River reservation. Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden's efforts to identify the woman, apparently a murder victim, cause tension with her love interest and law partner, Adam Lone Eagle, driving her to enlist the aid of their friend Fr. John O'Malley. A rash of threats and the murder of a woman Vicky questioned confirms her suspicions that members of a 1970s activist group, the American Indian Movement, are still on the rez and somehow involved in all the happenings. Bringing her trademark western flair to nonstop action, Coel keeps danger hanging over Vicky's head as she follows a trail of clues to their startling conclusion."
Publishers Weekly

"Another wonderfully evocative story of the struggles of the Arapaho to retain their heritage while living in a white man's world."
Kirkus Reviews

"As is customary in the series, there is a wealth of background on native customs, past and present, and the descriptions are real and poignant. The past includes flashbacks to the American Indian Movement in 1973, and the violence, much less discrimination, against native Americans at the time. Descriptions of the West and the Plains are vivid. The novel is a welcome addition to the series. Highly recommended."
—Gloria Feit, Crimespree Magazine
Margaret Coel is the New York Times best-selling author of the acclaimed Wind River mystery series set among the Arapahos on Wyoming's Wind River Reservation and featuring Jesuit priest Father John O'Malley and Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden. Along with the Wind River mystery series, she is the author of five non-fiction books, including the award-winning Chief Left Hand, published by the University of Oklahoma Press. This biography of an Arapaho chief and history of the Arapahos in Colorado has never gone out of print. The Colorado Historical Society recently included Chief Left Hand among the best 100 books on Colorado history. Her articles on the West have appeared in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, American Heritage of Invention & Technology, Creativity! and many other publications.

The Page 69 Test: The Girl With Braided Hair.

--Marshal Zeringue