In her second outing, Cash Blackbear goes off to college and finds herself embroiled in the mystery of a missing classmate.
“I’m not used to folks treating me like I’m stupid,” says Cash. But Moorhead State is another world, one slow to disclose the secrets of its initiated. When Cash (Murder on the Red River, 2017) attends a meeting called by the guidance counselor, Mrs. Kills Horses, to launch a new college chapter of the Indian Studies Association, the other students who turn out seem to be on another planet. When she wants to test out of her entry-level English class because the simple assignments bore her, professor LeRoy, the department chair, acts as if she can’t be serious. The activities most congenial to her—picking farmer Milt’s sugar beets and loading them on a truck, shooting pool at Shorty Nelson’s bar, drinking beer with her married ex-lover, Jim Jenson, smoking a million cigarettes—are all things she did long before she arrived at Moorhead State. Not even the request by Sheriff Dave Wheaton, who plucked the 3-year-old Cash from the wreck that killed her mother, to speak with the parents of vanished classmate Janet Tweed seems to lead anywhere. Only the unheralded return of Mo, the brother she’d long since forgotten, from his stint as an Army medic to Cash’s place, where he promptly installs himself, awakens much of a response, and it’s one that’s not entirely positive. Nothing will get Cash’s engines revving, it seems, but being snatched and imprisoned along with Janet and half a dozen other cheerleader types. Unfurling her secret weapons—the ability to take a beating and a dead-eyed determination to be accountable to no one but herself—she methodically plans an escape that will be capped by Mo’s remark: “What’d I tell you? White slavery.”
The furious intensity of the heroine’s simmering energy overshadows most of the cast. It’s a particularly nice touch, though, that the kidnapper, once identified, is never seen again, vanishing as completely as last week’s trash.