16 July 2014

Have I read this before?

One of the books I picked up at the Hospital Auxiliary book sale was Margaret Coel's Wife of Moon.

I have read several of Coel's mysteries set the fictional St. Francis mission in northern Wyoming. I began reading them about the time Tony Hillerman was writing less and Coel helped fill the void of a writer who created and maintained interesting characters, who brought beauty to a rather unwelcoming environment, and who told a good story. To me, it helped that many of Coel's characters were Arapahos on the Wind River Reservation and that she appreciated cultural differences. (It also helped that a friend of mine, who grew up on the res, could identify some of real life models for Coel's characters.)

The main recurring characters are a priest at the mission and an Arapaho woman who left the reservation for law school and returned to practice there. The barriers between the two make them "obvious" partners in solving crimes and protecting the innocent. In at least one novel, things swung perilously close to romance novel, but only one time.

At some point in reading the book, I wondered if I'd read it before. When I looked at the copyright date, I found the book was 10 years old.(It's old enough that you can download the book.) I didn't recall any scenes or plot twists, but I have read many of Coel's books. If I read it and wrote about it a decade ago, I'd have written about it in my first attempt at a blog about my reading. Years after we changed ISPs, our old one erased all our old web presence, so I can't go back and find out if I wrote about reading Wife of Moon.

Arapaho tipi
Never mind. This is a good story, well told. It's fictionally tied to a 1907 visit to Edward S. Curtis, the photographer famed for staging and photographing Native Americans before what he thought was their ultimate fate: dissolving into European culture. During a fictional reenactment, a chief's daughter, the wife of a white landowner is killed.
Wyoming by

The descendant of that land owner, a successful businessman and politician in 2004, is thinking about running for president. Is he part Arapaho? Did the land inherited by his grandfather from his Arapaho wife really belong to the tribe? Now the curator of an exhibit of Curtis' photos at the mission has disappeared. An Arapaho woman is murdered. An angry Jackson, Wyoming millionaire shows up threatening anyone he can corner. The Arapaho lawyer is trying to defend a client who has disappeared on a vision quest. The mission priest is trying to find out what is going on and protect his flock. Genealogy becomes important in answering questions. And are there really some of Curtis' glass negatives still around on the res?

Oh, and campaign staffers for the potential candidate appear to smooth over bumps in the PR campaign they're running.

It's a good story, well told.

Have you read Wife of Moon? What did you think of it? Write. Tell this little bit of the world what you think.

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