Review

Killing Raven

by Margaret Coel



Margaret Coel writes about the Arapaho Indians who live on the Wind
River Reservation, and her fans know it's a sure bet that she will
include the two memorable characters who enliven her stories:
Father John O'Malley, pastor of the St. Francis Mission, and
attorney Vicky Holden, who is also an Arapaho Indian. Vicky lived
on the reservation in the traditional life but was also forced, by
circumstances, to go out into the world to make her way. In this
novel she has now returned to her home, opened a small law firm and
is readjusting to life. The two protagonists fell in love at first
sight, but as is the case with star-crossed lovers, they have no
hope for a future together. Nevertheless, their trust in each other
is unchallenged and so they remain best of friends. Their separate
"life journeys" keep them on different paths, which intersect when
their help is needed on the reservation.

The Great Plains Casino has opened on the Wind River Reservation
and more than one hundred Arapahos have jobs there. The people
expect that the profits are going to mean better health care,
better schools, and the development of new jobs. At least that's
what the tribe has been told. But nothing in life is a sure thing
and Coel has deftly captured the stumbling blocks that frustrate
the best-laid plans of even the most confident of gamblers in her
newest novel, KILLING RAVEN. Good people with good intentions
devised the genesis of the gambling plan, but they see their stake
slowly turn into chaos. Like the spin of the roulette wheel, the
story winds itself out exposing the world of corruption attached to
gambling casinos, the world of the dispossessed, the world of the
win and the world of those who would steal from their dependents
when they become addicted; a world where the holier than thou
protest with violence against what they don't understand.

Fifteen-year-old Lela is bullied by her boyfriend, Tommy Willard,
into going with him to Double Dives, one of the most troubled
corners of the Wind River Reservation; there, she finds the body of
a white man buried in a shallow grave. She is terrified and
surprised because she expected the corpse to belong to a different
man. When she turns to Tommy, he starts to pull her away and slaps
her when she demands they go to the police. She accuses him of
doing Captain Jack Monroe's dirty work and reminds him that his
pals are bullies who continue to protest against the casino in
their effort to get it closed down. When she tells him that he is
acting against his own people, Tommy loses his patience and tries
to force her into his pick-up. She breaks free and flees, running
through the brush toward the river and not stopping until she
reaches the safety of her aunt's house.

As soon as Father O'Malley hears about the dead body he hurries to
the crime scene. He prays that he won't find one of his
parishioners in the grave. He is also concerned for Lela's
emotional and physical well-being and starts his search for her at
her Aunt Mary's home. After a few questions the priest learns that
Tommy is the person terrorizing Lela. Her aunt retells the events
of that night: "Lela came running in here a couple nights ago,
white as those plates. Said she seen a hand coming up from the
earth in Double Dives. I said, we gotta call the police" … "
[but] Lela started to cry and said he'd kill her too." Finally Mary
admits she said to Lela that she thought perhaps Tommy had
something to do with the dead body, and that is when the frightened
girl hotfoots it out of there.

While the good Father is taking care of the grisly business on the
reservation, Vicky gets a visit from an old friend, Adam Lone
Eagle, a lawyer and a Lakota with whom she recently had dinner. His
visit is a complete surprise. She hasn't spoken to him since that
night and he never called her to tell her that he had been hired by
the casino management company to do their legal work: "It was so
predictable. Lodestar had been hired by the business council to
manage the casino, and the council had always found outside lawyers
to handle the tribal legal work --- white men, usually --- as if
the council couldn't see her, one of their own people."

But Adam has come to offer Vicky a job, one she sorely needs if she
is going to be able to keep her office open. She reluctantly
accepts the offer. But as soon as she enters the glitzy, noisy
atmosphere of the casino she senses that something is not right. In
no time she is deep into an investigation of fraud and
embezzlement. The danger she feels on her first day at work is real
and erupts when she becomes a target.

The plot of KILLING RAVEN is not especially complicated and is a
fast read. Coel does a splendid job of endowing her characters with
such humanity that when they move into the spotlight and are
fleshed out, readers are drawn to them as if they are real people.
Fans and those new to the world that is encompassed by the Windy
Ridge Reservation will not be disappointed in this latest addition
to the collection of Holden/O'Malley novels. Coel has a winner
here, one not to be missed.

Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on January 22, 2011

Killing Raven
by Margaret Coel

  • Publication Date: August 3, 2004
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • ISBN-10: 0425197506
  • ISBN-13: 9780425197509