Saturday, August 27, 2011

Celebrating Mysteries: Following a Different Drummer

I hope you've been enjoying this month's Native American mystery theme-- I know I have. This week concludes the month of August with three authors whose Native American main characters all follow different career paths. I am well acquainted with two of the authors' books; I have them both listed on my Recommended Mystery Series page. The third author is new to me, but I have the first book in her series sitting on my to-be-read shelves. Let's get started!

David Cole
David Cole lives part of the year outside Tucson, Arizona. He is a founding member of NativeWeb, Inc., a non-profit corporation offering Internet services and information to Native and Indigenous peoples of the world. Here is what David himself has to say about his writing and the main character of his mystery series:

"My fiction writing has always been politically motivated. Quite frankly, I chose the mystery format because it was a good-selling market, and I could wrap my politics around the plot. And in a very real sense, mysteries are one of the last remaining genres where morality plays a central role. I want "good" to triumph.

Laura Winslow, my central character, is a half-Hopi, one-time-Ritalin-abuser computer hacker, living on the run while battling the demons behind her own anxiety disorder. (In later books) Laura is far more socially interactive and she's also reunited with her daughter. But that doesn't mean my major characters' lives aren't works-in-progress."

There are seven books in the Laura Winslow series. The first three are: Butterfly Lost (2000), The Killing Maze (2001), and Stalking Moon (2002).

Butterfly Lost is an excellent start to the series. Here is a synopsis:

Hacking onto the electronic trail of people who want to stay lost is Laura Winslow's business. But when an old Hopi commissions Laura to find his granddaughter, she doesn't want any part of his vision of Powakas or Navajo skinwalkers--or anything else that will remind her of her old life as "Kauwanyauma" back on the "rez" in Arizona. The Hopi's granddaughter, however, is one of too many girls recently gone missing, and that Laura can't ignore.

Propelled by her own bad memories, Laura reluctantly begins her search, a trail that leads her into the testosterone-laden rodeo circuit and drops her between the crosshairs of stolen heritage and a quest for ultimate power. This investigation, though, is cutting way too close to her own demons for Laura to handle. Holding body and soul together--and catching a killer--means she must get beyond the angry desire to destroy the past and allow herself to be the woman, and the Hopi, that she's always tried to deny.

Thomas Perry
Thomas Perry is the author of another series that I highly recommend. He has worked as a park maintenance man, factory laborer, commercial fisherman, university administrator and teacher, and a writer and producer of prime time network television shows.  He lives in Southern California.

His heroine is Jane Whitefield, a Seneca woman who helps innocent people disappear from those who are trying to kill them. She has quite a few tricks up her sleeve, and she's taught me a lot about what I'd have to do if I wanted to vanish.

There are six books in the Jane Whitefield series. The first three are: Vanishing Act (1995), Dance for the Dead (1996), and Shadow Woman (1997).

Vanishing Act hooked me, even though I did have a problem or two with the book. Publishers Weekly talks about this first book in the series:

Jane Whitefield, half-white, half-Seneca member of the Wolf clan, helps people disappear-- people like Rhonda Eckerly, fleeing her abusive husband, or Harry Kemple, hoping to stay alive after witnessing a gangland shooting. Like a one-woman witness protection program, Jane has helped both vanish by giving them new identities and new starts at life. Now an alleged new victim has invaded Jane's upstate New York house. John Felker claims that he's a cop-turned-accountant, is being framed as an embezzler and has a contract out on his life. Almost immediately, the men chasing Felker appear, and Jane leads him farther upstate, to a Canadian Indian reservation where he can build a new life. Jane is an original and fascinating creation. She operates outside the law, but with a particular slant born of her distinct character and Seneca heritage. Perry tells her story in a trim and brisk manner, moreover, with plenty of action and suspense. 

Sue Owens Wright
Sue Owens Wright is an author of both fiction and non-fiction about dogs and writes newspaper columns and magazine articles.

Her mystery series features Elsie "Beanie" MacBean, a freelance writer and member of the Washoe tribe, and her Basset Hound, Cruiser.

There are three books in the series so far: Howling Bloody Murder (2001), Sirius About Murder (2006), and Embarking on Murder (2009).

Here's a brief synopsis of the first book in the series:

In Howling Bloody Murder, her first book, Sue Owens Wright introduces half-Washoe Indian Elsie "Beanie" MacBean and her basset hound Cruiser. Land disputes at Lake Tahoe between developers and the Washoe turn deadly, and it's up to Beanie to clear a Tribal Elder's name.

I hope you've enjoyed August's travels into this crime fiction sub-genre. Join me in September when I'll have a brand-new theme to celebrate!


  1. I have enjoyed this month's Indian related posts. Ever since Tony Hillerman, I've been hooked on these mysteries. Must look up Wright; the basset hound is so cute. The others sound good too.

  2. Barbara-- I'm glad you've enjoyed this month's theme. I've been hooked on this sub-genre for a long time, too.

  3. I've enjoyed this month's tour of mysteries featuring native American characters. This morning I began reading Shadow Woman. I have already read and enjoyed the first two mysteries in the Jane Whitefield series. I want to mention two series I have enjoyed very much. First, Kirk Mitchell's series featuring Emmitt Quana Parker and Anna Turnipseed. The first book in the series is Cry Dance. Second is William Kent Krueger's series featuring ex-Sheriff Cork O'Connor. The first book in the series is Iron Lake. I am very glad you mentioned Margaret Coel's books earlier this month. I have read and enjoyed all the books in the Vicki Holden and John O'Mally series.

  4. Terry-- Thanks so much for your comment. I'm glad you've enjoyed this month's theme! You don't know how close I came to including Kirk Mitchell's excellent series-- the only problem with a series of posts like this is that I can't include all the authors I'd like to!

  5. I love Thomas Perry's Jane Whitefield books especially.

    Thanks for a very interesting post.

  6. Yvette-- You're very welcome! I'm glad I mentioned a series you enjoy.


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