BAD MEDICINE by Ron Querry


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Steadily entertaining second novel (after The Death of Bernadette Lefthand, not reviewed), about Western versus Navajo and Hopi medicine in the Southwest. The Navajo Reservation in northeastern Arizona near Four Corners is stricken by an unfamiliar, devastatingly swift disease that starts with a headache and kills in less than 48 hours. Can it be the result of archaeologists Sabine Vogel and Peter Campbell’s unearthing of a virus in sacred Navajo land? Is it the revenge of ghosts for the theft by Silas Slowtalker of a sacred treasure at the nearby Hopi Reservation’s Bear Clan, a tablet given in turn to Peter Campbell, who later took it to the Little Springs Trading Post to validate its rarity? Slowtalker’s vile deed also unearthed corpse powder, which fills the very air with bad medicine. Investigating is young Dr. Push Foster, of the Indian Health Services Hospital in HashkÇ, Navajo Nation, himself a mixed-blood Choctaw, who teams up with old buddy Dr. Sonny Brokeshoulder to check into the histories of the dead, who are all Navajo. Push eventually gets an analysis from Atlanta’s Centers for Disease Control suggesting that the illness appears to be caused by a hantavirus carried by rodents, mainly mice. When he confers with terrifically wise old Navajo Clifford Lomaquaptewa about Atlanta’s report, Clifford says, “I don’t know. . . That sounds pretty superstitious, to me . . . blamin’ it on mice and some germs you can’t see.” And, in fact, the CDC’s research helps unravel only a part of the puzzle; also active, it would seem, is a skinwalker, a coyote who can shape-shift to human form and is a being of concentrated evil. After some tense showdowns, the villains get their comeuppances, but the line between Western and Indian medicine remains very vague. Great Indian lore in an ingenious medical gripper without the whole globe held in terror.

Pub Date: April 13th, 1998
ISBN: 0-553-09969-8
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Bantam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1998