Saturday, August 13, 2011

Celebrating Mysteries: Bar Exams

All during the month of August, I'm celebrating Native American Heritage Month by featuring crime fiction with Native American characters and culture. This gives me a chance to talk about some of my favorite authors and to add to my wishlist as well.

This week, I'm going to shine the spotlight on three authors whose characters have all passed their bar exams. If I mention one of your favorites, I'm glad, but it's also my hope that you'll find books and authors to add to your to-be-read stacks. Let's see what happens!

Margaret Coel
Margaret Coel hails from a pioneer Colorado family, and the West is in her blood. This best-selling, award-winning author writes the Wind River Reservation mystery series. The two main characters, John Aloysius O'Malley, a Jesuit missionary, and Vicki Holden, an Arapaho attorney, live on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.

The series currently numbers fifteen books, the first three of which are The Eagle Catcher (1995), The Ghost Walker (1996), and The Dream Stalker (1997).

Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Eagle Catcher:

"Murder is only one element in this debut mystery, which also takes on interracial romance, the exploitation of Indian lands and the political ambitions of a former county commissioner who's also a gubernatorial candidate. Father John O'Malley has been banished from Boston to the dirt-poor mission at Wyoming's Wind River Reservation to recover from his alcoholism. When the tribal chairman is killed, an obnoxious FBI agent arrests the chairman's nephew. In an effort to help, Father John joins forces with Vicky Holden, a feisty, 40-something Arapaho attorney for whom he stoically suffers an unpriestly attraction. Into this suspenseful tale, Coel weaves often insightful commentary about Arapaho culture, bigotry and the widespread alcoholism among Western tribes. Likable, well-drawn characters and a lively pace mark this novel...."

Sallie Bissell
Sallie Bissell is a Nashville, Tennessee, native who had a career in advertising. She worked on various media campaigns, including radio spots for the Grand Ole Opry. After leaving advertising for motherhood, she began to devote herself to writing fiction.

Bissell has written four top-notch thrillers featuring half-Cherokee assistant district attorney Mary Crow, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia: In the Forest of Harm (2001), A Darker Justice (2002), Call the Devil by His Oldest Name (2004) and Legacy of Masks (2005). I've enjoyed these Mary Crow books-- Bissell is extremely skilled at crafting fast-paced, exciting plots.

Publishers Weekly had this to say about In the Forest of Harm:

"An assistant DA returns to the North Carolina mountain country of her youth in Bissell's hair-raising camping-trip-gone-wrong debut thriller. Half-Cherokee Mary Crow, Atlanta's hottest young prosecutor, has just won her sixth murder case when she decides to take her two best friends, Joan and Alex, along with her on a hiking vacation near Little Jump Off, N.C. She has hidden motives for revisiting her one-horse hometown: her mother was raped and murdered 12 years ago in the country store she managed, and Mary needs to come to terms with her death. But death still haunts the cursed countryside, and the three women find themselves in perilous situations, fighting for their lives with both a crazed mountain man and the obsessed brother of the Atlanta murderer, bent on revenge. When Alex is spirited away and Joan is raped, Mary must muster the strength to match wits with two deranged killers, calling upon her old tracking skills and deep knowledge of the forest. Meanwhile, her high school sweetheart, Jonathan Walkingstick, realizes something has gone wrong, and heads after the women up the mountain."

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro may be more well-known for her vampire named Saint-Germain, but this Living Legend of the International Horror Guild has also written a mystery series featuring Charles Spotted Moon, an attorney and Ojibway tribal shaman who lives in San Francisco, California.

There are four books in the series: Bad Medicine (1990), False Notes (1991), Poison Fruit (1991), and Cat's Claw (1992).

Here is a very brief synopsis of Bad Medicine:

"Charlie Spotted Moon is a tough, lean American Indian with a law degree and a practice in San Francisco. When a malpractice case leads to a murder investigation, Charlie conjures up some shamanism from his Ojibway past to help in bringing the case to justice."

Have I tempted you enough yet? No?

Just wait till next week!


  1. This looks to be a great list of must reads. Although I'm not Native American, the spiritual connectedness I have along with a love of mystery will keep me happily reading for a long while. Thanks.

  2. I like the idea of Sallie Bissell's heroine. When we stayed near the Smokey Mountains National Park in NC, I was very interested in the story of the Cherokee who managed to stay there in the mountains.

  3. Barbara-- Mary Crow is quite the character, and her survival skills are amazing!


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