Thursday, September 29, 2016

Review of "Shadow Dancer" by Margaret Coel


 Vicky Holden, an Arapaho who grew up on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, recently returned to the region and set up her new law office. After a huge public fight with her abusive ex-husband, Ben Holden, he is shot dead - and Vicky is a suspect. Other troubles are also brewing in the area. A self-proclaimed prophet named Orlando has revived the Shadow Dance religion, meant to rid the region of white people and restore the land to the Indians. Moreover, a young computer expert named Dean Little Horse is missing.

Vicky's situation is made more difficult because Ben's family and the Indians on the reservation revered Ben and thought Vicky should have reconciled with him. This was perplexing (to me) since it was known that Ben was an unfaithful wife-beater. Neverthless, everyone is ready to believe that Vicky killed Ben, and she is taunted and harassed. Determined to clear her name Vicky investigates. She learns that, just before he was killed, Ben had a confrontation with two Lakota Indians who stole something from the ranch he managed. Vicky feels sure they were involved in Ben's death and sets out to find them - running into various kinds of trouble along the way.

Vicky is assisted by Father John O'Malley, the priest in charge of the Catholic mission on the Wind River Reservation. Father John, who is not-so-secretly in love with Vicky, sets out to help Vicky prove her innocence, find Dean Little Horse, and shut down Orlando's cult. He's also busy trying to save the mission, which may be shut down for financial reasons.

Margaret Coel skillfully includes glimpses about the Arapaho people and culture, which was an enjoyable addition to the story. The motive for the killings made sense and the mystery - and tangential issues - were resolved in a satisfactory manner. I'd recommend the book as light reading for mystery fans.

Rating: 3 stars

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