The Spider's Web (Wind River)
by Margaret Coel
Review by Don Metzler
Berkley Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425236604
Date: 07 September 2010 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
“Where is she?” Dwayne rammed a fist into the cabinet door. His other hand lowered the gun. “I want the answer now! You got one second, or that stupid dog is dead.”
Ned Windsong, a young Arapaho man who as a teenager had played on Father John O'Malley’s tribal youth baseball team, and who seemed to have a bright future ahead of him as a trained electrician, has been found dead, shot through the chest. His white fiancé, Marcy Morrison, bruised and beaten to near unconsciousness, cowered in the corner of the room where Ned's corpse was discovered. The next day, when Marcy has regained a degree of lucidity, she identifies Dwayne Hawk and Lionel Lookingglass as Ned's murderers.
So the hunt is on for two cold-blooded killers. But this is the Wind River Indian Reservation in west-central Wyoming, with more places to hide than Carter has little pills. Early on, the massive manhunt is frustrated by a lack of viable leads. And as the investigation unfolds, it begins to be apparent that Ned Windsong, Dwayne Hawk and Lionel Lookingglass may have all been involved in a local burglary ring. Was this murder prompted by a dispute over the spoils of their crimes?
But a still bigger question looms: will the killers now target Marcy Morrison, the only person who can identify Hawk and Lookingglass as the shooters?
Inevitably, the tragedy lands on Father John's doorstep, and the Jesuit priest and part-time detective once again finds himself embroiled in a complex case of murder and mayhem on the reservation. On the advice of Ted Gianelli, the regional FBI agent-in-charge, Marcy goes into hiding, opting for the time being to stay in the guest cottage at Father John's St. Francis Mission.
Meanwhile, wealthy television evangelist Larry Morrison, Marcy's father, has flown into Lander to look after his daughter's interests. His first action is to hire a lawyer on Marcy's behalf, and the lawyer that he chooses is Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden. Not for the first time, Father John O'Malley and Vicky Holden are thrust into the position of working together on the same case, although, as has often been true over the years, they will be approaching the problem from opposite poles. Vicky soon finds herself at odds not only with Father John, but also with her Arapaho neighbors, who openly wonder why she would agree to defend a white woman for the murder of one of her own people.
And Father John, to his dismay, has begun to harbor a strong suspicion that Ned Windsong's murder is more than just a falling out among thieves. But he cannot quite put his finger on what it all might really be about. It's as if there is someone or something out there, some shadowy presence that lurks just beyond the lighted circle of knowable events, who may be behind the murder of Ned Windsong -- someone who may have been directing the actions of Hawk and Lookingglass, all the while carefully weaving a spider's web of lies and deception.
The Spider's Web is Margaret Coel's most recent installment in the Wind River mystery series, and Coel once again pits Father John O'Malley and attorney Vicky Holden against not only the forces of lawlessness, but in some ways against each other. For Father John and Vicky "have a history", as some would say. From the first moment they met, however many years ago now, John and Vicky have shared a physical attraction to one another. But John O'Malley, being a Jesuit priest, shrinks from ever acting upon the urges that assail him, and that would, in his view, demean the vows he has given to the Church. And Vicky Holden, for her part, knows better than to ever push the boundaries that separate herself from Father John.
Instead, Father John and Vicky have maintained a friendship that at times is caring and understanding, but at other times can be confrontational and intolerant. The one thing they will always share in common, however, is a burning desire to see justice served. And because of that, they work together to try to solve the mystery of who murdered Ned Windsong.
As always, Coel's plotting and depiction of characters is flawless. The Spider's Web will be well received by fans of her previous Wind River mysteries.