Ancient quarrels erupt anew between the Arapaho and Shoshone tribes on the Wind River Reservation.
The massacre at Bates Battlefield, when Shoshone warriors helped the U.S. Cavalry ambush an Arapaho village, was a turning point in Old Time, marking the end of the Arapahos as a nation. But poor planning and indifference at the Department of Indian Affairs placed the remaining Arapahos in the southeast corner of Wind River, only miles from their Shoshone rivals. Their fragile coexistence is rocked when Father John O’Malley, pastor of St. Francis Mission, gets a strange call about dead bodies at Bates and goes there to find three murdered Shoshones, posed as if killed in battle. O’Malley’s worries grow as he meets Edie Bradbury, a student at Central Wyoming College, whose Shoshone boyfriend, Trent Hunter, has disappeared. Detective Andy Burton blames the killings on chronic troublemaker Frankie Montana, who was in a bar fight with Hunter and the Crispin brothers just a few weeks before. But Frankie’s lawyer, Vicky Holden, disagrees. Despite her lover Adam Lone Eagle’s entreaties to stop defending losers like Frankie and turn her attention to high-profile cases instead, she seeks help from O’Malley and history professor Charles Lambert to prove her client’s innocence before tribal war breaks out.
Coel’s latest Wind River chronicle (Killing Raven, 2003, etc.) offers a skillful blend of history and mystery, with characters whose motives are seldom what they seem.