The Eagle Catcher (Wind River Reservation Mystery)
by Margaret Coel
Cover Artist: Paul Long / Arcangel Images
Review by Don Metzler
Berkley Trade Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425262740
Date: 31 December 2012 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The minute he spotted Harvey's tipi, he knew something was wrong. The flaps on the other tipis were closed, tied securely in place, but the flap on Harvey's hung loose, jumping sideways in the wind. Father John started running, the thud of the drums reverberating in his chest. He reached the tipi, threw the flap back against the canvas, and ducked inside. In the slim shaft of daylight, he saw the army-green sleeping bag on the dirt floor. Someone was in it.The Ethete Powwow, a late summer celebration of the Arapahos on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, is cut short when Father John O'Malley discovers the murdered corpse of Harvey Castle. Harvey was Tribal Chairman, loved and respected by his people, and an individual whom Father John counted as a friend. His death by knifing in his tipi on the hallowed Powwow grounds puts a damper on the ceremonial gathering. Within hours, tipis are taken down and the participants have melted away, back to their year-round homes.
Under the complicated jurisdictional laws that govern Native American reservations, the FBI wields legal authority in cases involving homicide. Agent Jeff Miller is the new FBI man on the Wind River Reservation, with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove to his superiors in Washington. Miller quickly assigns blame for the murder to Anthony Castle, Harvey's nephew. Anthony and Harvey were heard to have had a serious argument only hours before Harvey was found knifed to death, and for Agent Miller the circumstantial evidence is sufficient to warrant an arrest.
In his gut, Father John does not accept this rush to judgement, and he enlists the aid of tribal attorney Vicky Holden in his quest to clear Anthony of the murder charges, and to learn the truth about what actually took place. Along the way, Father John and Vicky will cross swords with local rancher and would-be politician Ned Cooley, powerful oil baron Jasper Owens, and Ernest Oldman, an alcoholic Arapaho who has been heard voicing public threats against Harvey Castle over the issue of several tribal oil wells that had recently been decommissioned.
The Eagle Catcher is a re-issue of the first novel in Margaret Coel's acclaimed Wind River Mystery series, featuring the Jesuit missionary Father John O'Malley and Arapaho lawyer Vicky Holden. In re-reading this volume, I was quickly reminded of the ingredients that made the Wind River mysteries, especially the earlier books, so special. Their unique charm is rooted not only in the mysteries themselves, nor even exclusively in the rich background of the Arapaho culture and the colorful backdrop of the Wind River Reservation, although any of these elements alone would have been sufficient to make the books a hit. But what makes these stories truly riveting is the underlying thread of sexual tension that exists between Father John and Vicky Holden. A Jesuit priest who has taken vows of celibacy and a Native American divorcee who has worked her way through law school and returned to the reservation, having been given the Arapaho name Hi sei ci nihi: Woman Alone. Father John and Vicky Holden are not only an unlikely couple, they are an impossible couple, a reality that they each recognize and accept. But their acceptance only makes the undeniable attraction they feel for one another all the more intriguing, perhaps because their situation is so fundamentally human.
The Eagle Catcher is not only a worthwhile read, it is an engaging re-acquaintance with the genesis of the Wind River Mysteries, and a reminder of what made the characters of Father John O'Malley and Vicky Holden so endearing to us the first time around.