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By Margaret Coel
Berkley Prime Crime, 2008 ($24.95)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Catherine McLeod is an investigative reporter for a major Denver newspaper, and her star is on the rise. When a stranger breaks into her home and shoots her best friend, she puts it down to a random act of violence, but the police and her employers think otherwise. She is reluctant to think that she has so angered any of the subjects of her articles that they would try to kill her, but a second close call convinces her that the attacks are personal. She refuses to go into hiding.
The reader is introduced to the villain in the second chapter. We know Eric has been hired to kill Catherine, but not why or who hired him. He’s just a guy doing a job, but he prides himself in always completing his mission. His pride is hurt when he misses the first time, and as she outwits him again and again he becomes more determined to take her out-- with extreme prejudice, no more Mr. Nice Killer.
At the urging of her ex-husband, a member of one of Denver’s pioneer families, she retreats to his ranch, but even in this seemingly secure, heavily guarded compound she is not safe. She frantically searches through her cases, hoping to discover who wants her dead, as the killer gets closer and closer to hitting his mark.
This book is not part of Coel’s Wind River Reservation series, but there are ties between the two. Catherine, who is adopted, knows she has Indian ancestry, but has thought little about it in the past. Now, in pursuing a story about an Arapaho bid to reclaim some of their land, she discovers a need to know who she really is. One hundred fifty years ago there was a massacre at the Arapaho village at Sand Creek, near Denver. The Arapaho and Cheyenne tribes were compensated by the government for the twenty-seven million acres of land they’d claimed in Colorado, but now some members of the tribe are saying that the settlement was made void because the Sand River massacre was genocide. They are again making a claim for the land, but say they will accept a small section of the land near Denver, where one of their supporters will build a casino. The governor is firmly against having another Indian casino in his state, but other members of the government are equally as firm in trying to push it through.
In a nod to her Vicky and Father John series, Vicky makes a cameo appearance in a courtroom scene, and Catherine takes notice of her. Perhaps one of these days their paths will cross again.
Tony Hillerman was a big supporter and fan of Coel’s writing. His passing leaves an empty space in the writing world, but Margaret Coel and others who carry on the spirit of his work will help to fill it.
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