After Arapaho lawyer Vicki Holden (née Singing Bird) has a contentious dinner with her ex-husband Ben, a successful businessman and even more successful ladies’ man, he’s shot dead, and she becomes the prime suspect. Tightening the noose is the fact that the murder weapon belongs to Vicki’s Aunt Rose, who claims it was stolen. Normally, handsome priest John O’Malley from the Wind River Indian Reservation would step in to support friend Vicki and help her solve the crime, but Father John has his hands full with another matter. Distraught elderly sisters Louise and Minnie Little Horse have implored him to find Dean, their missing nephew. Learning that Dean has a girlfriend named Janis he’s kept secret from his doting aunts, Father John traces her to a revived Indian sect known as the Shadow Dancers. Led by a man named James Sherwood, a.k.a. Orlando, they dance for days at a time in preparation, so the legend goes, for Paradise. Father John is unsettled by the blind fervor of Orlando’s followers; what Orlando describes as a reverent return to tradition many see as a dangerous cult. The investigative paths of Vicki and Father John merge when Dean’s body is found shot by the same gun that killed Ben. In a finale that’s more Nancy Drew than Nick and Nora, Father John and Vicki stumble into the solution and face off against the surprising culprit.
In this sixth outing, Coel (The Lost Bird, 1999, etc.) depicts a finely textured world of believable characters, but seems uninterested in plot construction or mystery.