Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Handless Maiden by Dorothy Black Crow

Joanna Joe, a Lakota woman, has been killed, her body dumped in a ditch on the reservation and its hands chopped off.  Worse, before the men can retrieve the body to arrange proper burial, it is taken off by the federal and local law enforcement authorities and buried in a pauper's grave.  To rest, the body must be buried on Indian land and reunited with its hands.

Alex Turning Hawk is a medicine man in training.  He is newly married to Tate, an Indian woman who was raised in the white world and is struggling to learn and obey the tribal ways.  They decide that they must find out who murdered Joanna and retrieve her to give her final honors.  In order to do so, Alex leaves to go undercover in town, leaving Tate to protect their homestead on the reservation.

As they each attempt to find the truth in their separate ways, they encounter many other players.  There are the AIM warriors, determined to bring back the honor of Indian ways.  There are the federal authorities, who often seem to be at cross-purposes from those of the Lakota, even active enemies at times.  Alex goes undercover as one of the Indian stereotypes; the drunken Indian wino and lives among those unfortunates in town.  He learns the lessons they have to teach while moving his investigation forward.  Tate works on the reservation, finding that all of her Lakota friends may not be friends after all.  There are rumors of a federal informer; a spy, and if true, this person may be tied to the murder.  Who can Tate trust?  Can the two find the truth of what happened to Joanna Joe?

Dorothy Black Crow has written a murder mystery steeped in the lore and traditions of the Lakota tribe.  Readers will learn more about the Lakota from this novel than from many history books, written by outsiders.  Each page draws the reader deeper and deeper into another world, where living close to the land and giving honor to each individual is key. The Handless Maiden is the first in a series of books about Alex Turning Hawk and his wife, Tate.   This book is recommended for mystery readers.

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