18 May 2010

Well, that was better

Besides picking up a new Walter Mosley book at the library I also picked up a new (to me) Margaret Coel book. I was rather disappointed with Mosley and rather pleased with Coel's Wife of Moon. Like her other mysteries, it's set on the Wind River reservation in central Wyoming.

I hadn't read one of her books for awhile, partly becuase I have been put off by the romance novel tendencies in many of them. This one is better. The romance themes are there. They involve the Jesuit priest at a reservation church, a native lawyer torn between pursuing her destiny and serving her people, and a handsome native lawyer from South Dakota who is pursuing a professional partnership and maybe a romantic one. All that doesn't intrude on this story much at all.

But Margaret Coel plots great stories and writes very good action/suspense episodes. (I'm not as good at reading them.) There are actually two connected plots in this book. One involves events that happened in 1907, during one of Edward S. Curtis' photographic expeditions to photograph native people before they disappeared into the great melting pot. The other involves a powerful Wyoming politician who seems set to announce his candidacy for U.S. president. (The book was written in 2004. What prominent Wyoming politician was in the news then?)

Father John gets involved because one his parishoners apparently committed suicide. Then the dead woman's husband disappears and becomes a suspect. Attorney Vicky Holden becomes his lawyer when he reappears.

To complicate matters a new curator at the tribal musem discovers that some reservation residents own prints of Edward Curtis' photographs that were gifts to thier grandparents. The curator doesn't have to go to "Antiques Roadshow" to know the value of vintage and unknown Curtis prints. Then the curator disappears.

The potential candidate schedules a visit to the reservation. When he does, some of the locals begin asking questions about the sources of his wealth and land bordering the reservation.

And the missing curator's controlling husband shows up and begins intimidating people in an effort, he says, to find his wife. But, his motives are suspect.

It's a good story and it's well told. I wasn't once tempted to think that there was magic or imaginary technology in the air. As a matter of fact, this story ranked very high on the credibility meter. Okay, the imaginary story from 1907 is obviously imaginary and the resolution involves a couple improbables, but they didn't get in the way of my enjoyment.

If you have a choice, check out Wife of Moon by Margaret Coel. Then let this little bit of the world know what you thought of it.

PS:There's a wonderful typo on p. 124: "People here don't think T.J.'s capable of killing anybody," Father John said. "They know the man, and they twist him."

Okay, Father John is originally from Boston, but what kind of accent or speech impediment turns "trust" into "twist?" And what of the editor? Or the proofreader? Did someone do minor sabotage on Coel's book? Someone kindly penciled in the proper word in the library copy that I read. Thank you.

Margaret Coel's web page
Judy Gigstad's review at Book Reporter
Harriet Klausner's review at All Readers

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