It's an awful moment for Arapaho lawyer Vicky Holden as the fifth in this Hillermanesque series (The Story Teller, 1998, etc.) gets underway. According to a radio bulletin, a priest from Wyoming's St. Francis Mission to the Wind River Indian Reservation has been shot to death. Vicky (nee Singing Bird) is certain the victim is Father John O'Malley, the mission pastor, with whom she's secretly but desperately in love. (He's secretly desperate, too.) Turns out, to her immense relief, that 70-ish Father Joseph, not hunkish Father John, was driving the mission pick-up. At first, Vicky—like everyone else, including Father John—assumes death by mistaken identity. He must have been the intended target, Father Joseph simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. After all, Father Joseph had been at the mission a bare three weeks. Who could have worked up enough murderous hate for him in that short a period? But when Vicky learns that 35 years ago Father Joseph did a previous mission stint, she's forced to rethink. Mysterious things happened then—an inexplicable rise in Native American infant mortality, a couple of suspicious suicides—that seem connected to the mysterious things happening now. Vicky and Father John conduct separate but equal investigations. In the end, of course, rampaging villainy is brought to justice, and rambunctious passion kept in check. Tune in next time. Father O'Malley and Vicky hold their own as characters, but the mystery itself lacks substance, and Coel really needs to polish her action scenes.
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