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by James W. Hall

Pub Date: Jan. 19th, 2005
ISBN: 0-312-27180-8
Publisher: Minotaur

An uneven thriller about Cherokee that never fully mines its rich potential.

The prolific Hall (Off the Chart, 2003, etc.) starts with an intriguing prologue. In 1838, Tsali, a Cherokee, defies Army orders to move his family from North Carolina’s mountains to Oklahoma. Fearing a wider rebellion, the Army bargains with Tsali: surrender yourself and family to a firing squad and the rest of your tribe may remain on their land. Tsali agrees, an act that, Hall promises, will bring consequences 150 years later. Unfortunately, what actually does follow, in present-day Miami and then in the hills of North Carolina, is rather flat and predictable. In Palm Beach, Cherokee Bright Sky Jacob Panther, initially promising as an edgy villain, buys a deadly venom that he plans to use in an assassination. Panther then warns police officer Charlotte Monroe and her husband Parker, a lawyer, that they’re in grave danger. In one of several well-done action scenes, Panther makes off with the Monroes’ teenaged daughter, Gracey, who suffers schizophrenic tendencies. With Panther shunted aside, the Monroes and other mostly one-dimensional characters carry the burden of the story. Parker admits to Charlotte that Jacob is actually his son, the love child from an affair Parker had years ago with a Cherokee woman while at summer camp in North Carolina. That same summer ended when someone burned down the camp, killing its owner, Parker’s father. The crime appears linked to ongoing, threatening tensions between the Cherokees and white settlers, and the Monroes head to North Carolina to unravel a not-very-tangled plot. Hall stints on mountain atmosphere, though the actions of one of his characters will make readers think twice about petting poodles.

Inconsistent writing: tight action scenes offset by thin characters and purplish prose (“Her complexion was as flawless as warm crème brulee”).