Eye of the Wolf
by Margaret Coel
Review by Don Metzler
Berkley Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 0425208095
Date: 05 September, 2006 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
An ominous, taped telephone message leads Father John O'Malley to the site of the legendary Bates massacre, a 19th century battle that pitted U.S. Army troops and their Shoshone allies against the outnumbered and unprepared remnant of the Arapaho tribe. Nowadays, Shoshone and Arapaho share the Wind River Reservation in central Wyoming, though they are often somewhat uneasy neighbors.
At Bates, Father John finds three corpses half buried in the recent snow. The bodies, he realizes with horror, have been posed to resemble the old photographs of warriors who died in the Bates battle. It is later determined that the three dead men are Shoshone, and the immediate theory (among the Shoshone, at any rate) is that someone of the Arapaho tribe has decided, 130 years after the fact, to seek revenge for the Bates massacre.
Lawyer Vicky Holden, herself an Arapaho, is engaged to defend Frankie Montana, who has become the popular suspect in the killings. Montana had been charged with assault only days earlier in a barroom altercation with the very same three men who became the murder victims. But Montana maintains he is innocent, and Holden believes him. Father John is also uncomfortable with the easy solution. He instead finds himself toying with the idea that perhaps there is a third party who is trying to ignite generations-old animosities between the Shoshone and the Arapaho. And if that is indeed the case, the plan seems to be working, as tensions mount and increasingly disturbing incidents begin to occur across the reservation. But who is behind it? And why?
Eye of the Wolf is the latest in a series of mysteries by Margaret Coel that are set on the Wind River Reservation, and there is a good deal of backstory involving Father John, Vicky Holden, and Holden's law partner Adam Lone Eagle that adds an intriguing set of sub-plots to the book. There are also colorful descriptions of the reservation and the surrounding area, and some fascinating lessons in Arapaho and Shoshone customs and culture.
The prose is crisp and eminently readable, the level of tension is sufficient to keep the reader turning pages, the characters are for the most part realistic, and the Native American history behind the story is fascinating -- so that I found myself willing to forgive Ms. Coel if the plot at times felt a bit contrived. I believe that this book will please nearly any mystery fan, and additionally should appeal to anyone who is a student of Native American history and culture. For those of us who fall into both categories, Eye of the Wolf is a treat indeed.