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The Silent Spirit: A Wind River Reservation Mystery    by Margaret Coel Amazon.com order for
Silent Spirit
by Margaret Coel
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

Kiki Wallowingbull is a source of anxiety to his grandparents (his parents were killed in an accident caused by his father's drinking), but they alone and perhaps Father O'Malley - continue to have faith that the young man is not beyond redemption.

Newly released from prison, vowing he is done with drugs, young Kiki heads to Los Angeles to find out the truth about his great-grandfather's disappearance. For Kiki does intend to justify his grandparents' faith; he wants answers for his grandfather, who never believed that his father had abandoned his wife and son.

When Kiki's body is found back on the Wind River reservation, Father John O'Malley suspects that his death is far more complicated than the easy answer of a drug-gang killing. Lawyer Vicky Holden is also involved when another Arapaho confesses to her that he is the murderer, although he claims self-defence. The unlikely partners find more and more questions as they probe for the truth.

Margaret Coel brings 1920s Hollywood to life, as she jumps from that era to the present. The story is fascinating, as we follow the lives of the Arapahos and Shoshones who trekked to Hollywood to be part of The Covered Wagon, as well as the events of the present day. The author weaves fiction and fact seamlessly; her Afterword is equally interesting as she explains that Tim McCoy, the cowboy star of the movie, was a real person and apparently a true hero, in that he tried to protect the rights of First Nations extras. (That era did not recognize aboriginals as worthy of rights.)

Once again, Coel presents a riveting tale, one far more than just a mystery. Her characters are well-rounded and appealing, wrestling with personal concerns while trying to protect their charges and right wrongs. Although much has changed since the 1920s, prejudice and injustice continue to exist, particularly in the case of minorities.

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