by Cynthia Chow
Details at the end of the post on how to enter to win a copy of the book, and a link to order it from Amazon and one from an indie bookstore.
“I am a young woman in modern America, living on the Rez – my life is always in danger.” When Jaya “Longbow” Long says this to Absaroka Sheriff Walt Longmire, the high schooler is only speaking the truth. Native women are murdered at a rate ten times higher than the national average, yet the numerous reasons linked to racial and economic disparities are often ignored by the general media. Jurisdiction miscommunications and confusion play a large role in this as well, which is why Lame Deer, Montana, Chief Lono Long has requested/ordered a favor from the Wyoming sheriff. Absaroka may be the least populated county in the least populated state in America, but Walt has encountered and survived more than his share of criminal investigations. He’s in the town of Lame Deer with his sizable best friend Henry Standing Bear, aka the Cheyenne Nation, to look into who has been sending over thirty written threats to the promising basketball star Jaya. Walt can’t help but connect the hostility to the disappearance of Jaya’s older sister Jeanie, the “good” sister, last seen on a van trip with friends over a year ago.
With his unassuming but still very large presence, Walt begins following the trail that leads from Jaya to the last sighting of Jeanie. With a mother in prison and an ex-con father now associating with white supremacists, the cascading tragedies seemed to doom Jaya’s prospects for a future. That’s where the rest of the Native community steps in, though, not only with the coaches but with Walt and Henry. Inadvertently finding themselves as occasional drop-in girls’ basketball coaches, they humorously yet compassionately deliver sound advice and an occasional kick in the butt. As they question those who were friends with Jeanie and a part of her complicated life, they all are unable to ignore the repeated sense and presence of something…dark. Walt feels it as an ominous void, but the Native people know it as the Éveohtsé_heóm?se, the Wandering Without that devours souls.
This seventeenth of the series resembles the novellas the author has written over the years, shorter tales that highlight the spiritual sides and myths of the Native people. Yet while Walt and Henry feel guided and haunted by inexplicable forces, they both track down very real threats that have long jeopardized Native women. Poverty, substance abuse, and systemic racism linked back to the taking of their lands has led to higher rates of teenage suicide and violent crimes against the women. This novel seems so timely considering the national attention recently given to the disappearance and murder of a white woman, while thousands of Native women go missing or are victimized regularly.
Readers should be reassured that the author skillfully and masterfully weaves this information into an undoubtedly funny and wry mystery. The trauma of the Native People seems to have led to the development of a clever and understandably dark sense of humor. Walt and Henry’s conversations are always a delight, with their dry wit often cynical but based in a long friendship. Being in Montana means that profane Undersheriff Victoria Moretti only makes brief appearances, but enough to delight longtime fans invested in her and Walt’s relationship. The compassion of this novel, mixed with the fascinating depiction of life on a Cheyanne reservation, make this another entertaining entry in one of the best mystery series being written today.
To enter to win a copy of Daughter of the Morning Star, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “morning star,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 30, 2021. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like. BE AWARE THAT IT WILL TAKE MUCH LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.
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