16 October 2014

Familiar author, new story

I have four books sitting next to my desk that I've read and haven't written about. All of them were written by authors whose earlier books I'm familiar with. All of them were at least good.

Should I do more than make a list of them?

Well, of course.

The top of the pile is The Spider's Web by Margaret Coel. Coel writes about murders on Wind River Reservation in north-central Wyoming. We drove through the area a year ago. It's full of deceptively big mountains, beautiful green valleys, and desolate-looking prairies.

Coel's main characters are the Boston priest assigned to the reservation parish as a way to help the recovering alcoholic, the Arapaho attorney who returned to the rez after law school, and local and reservation lawmen.

This plot revolves around the murder of a young Arapaho who seemed to be turning his life around and an outsider who identified herself as his girlfriend. And there are other mysterious characters who haunt and threaten the main characters and other locals near the parish church and Riverton, the town in the southeast corner of the rez.

St. Stephen's parish (the model for Coel's church)
People go to and from Jackson, Wyoming in the story, but it's a three-hour drive through Dubois. Of course, in the wide west, a three hour drive is a short jaunt. I knew people in Wyoming who drove 75 miles to the grocery store and 75 miles back.

Coel writes well. She treats the landscape almost like Hillerman did. Her characters are almost as complete as Hillerman's were. Her plots are as complex as Hillerman's were. I was a big fan of Tony Hillerman, so to say that Coel is almost as good as Hillerman is high praise.

I liked The Spider's Web. If you haven't read any of her books before, I think you ought to go back to one of her earlier books to get a taste of what she does. One of her early books really strayed near frustrated romance (focused on the priest and the attorney), but she hasn't repeated that. If you like what you read, go to the library or a Half Price Books store and read away.

Now I have three books on the pile next to my desk. Back to reading.