A rough-hewn Native American adventure set amidst the flourishing Kiowa nation during the summer of 1866. Tay-bodal, cranky loner and gifted healer, attends a meeting following the death of the great chief Little Mountain. He thinks the gathering must concern the election of a new leader, but a hideous event has occurred: The nephew of one contender for principal chief has been strangled and the cousin of another--handsome warrior Cheyenne Robber--has been accused of the murder and confined. Tay-bodal has five days to resolve this intertribal dispute and avert a civil war of the sort that has until recently racked the white men. Inspired by the thunderbolt of a love affair with an outspoken widow--Crying Wind, a relative of the accused--he infiltrates opposing camps, performs a primitive postmortem, and escapes a shooting only to be rescued by Union soldiers. This espionage caper culminates in a Kiowa show of force followed by Tay-bodal's denunciation of the murderer to the assembled tribes--all of which makes a nice contrast to Hercule Poirot in the drawing room. Medawar extracts effective humor and poignancy from Tay- bodal's journey toward the respect of his people. But of all that her hero survives, nothing is more dangerous than the rebellious grammar and uncertain plotting that hamstring this first mystery. The author (a western, People of the Whistling Waters, not reviewed) needs to do homework in something more than Native lore.