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Winter's Child: A Wind River Mystery


Winter's Child: A Wind River Mystery

Margaret Coel’s latest Wind River mystery continues to personify the Arapaho people living on the Wind River Reservation, with reality honed from research and expertise in Arapaho history.

Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden and Father John O’Malley, pastor of the St. Francis Mission on the reservation, are the two recurring characters in this series. Coel next introduces Father John’s niece, Shannon, a 24-year-old graduate student who is visiting and completing research for her thesis. Shannon’s friendly manner endears her to the native people she meets, especially James Two Horses, the young man who helps the priest with  mass preparation several times a week. Although he is being tutored by the senior priest there, he remains open to affairs of the heart.

Vicky’s law practice handles miscellaneous tribal matters, from misdemeanors and criminal prosecutions to property litigation and non-criminal proceedings. A fellow attorney asks her to consult with him on a case, an adoption involving an Arapaho couple and a white child, now six years old. When just an infant, she was left on their doorstep on a snowy winter night. They now want to adopt her, being the only parents she has known. Clint Hopkins, the Riverton attorney, has serious questions about the entire circumstances of the case, and meets with Vicky on another snowy night.

"WINTER’S CHILD entertains and educates. Shannon’s research, Vicky’s legal complexities, at least three murders and miscellaneous crimes combine for attention."

Vicky agrees to look over Clint’s written notes, knowing that the majority of his brief remains in his head. She already has been approached at the meeting by its guest speaker, a handsome attorney named Rick Masterson. Visiting with him, she watches Clint carry his briefcase toward his car, parked across a windy, snow-covered street. Screeching tires and the rumble of an accelerating engine crash the otherwise still night. The thundering vehicle crushes Clint against his car, speeds up and races off into the distance, never stopping. Vicky and Rick are the first to rush into the chaos, attempting to revive the dying man without success. She is convinced that the Sheriff’s ruling of a terrible accident is wrong. Murder is her verdict.

Meanwhile, Vicky’s client, an alcoholic Arapaho named Vince White Hawk, has missed a court hearing and gone on the run. Needing rehab more than incarceration, he refuses to turn himself in. With pleading from his mother, Vicky will try to obtain his surrender without a brutal standoff. Furthermore, she dives deeper into the question marks surrounding the adoption case, interviews the would-be parents and finds more loopholes. She shovels through evidence that Clint may have uncovered on a trip to Denver, just days before his death.

At the Mission, Father John reminisces on a past life with Shannon’s mother, who married his own brother when he waffled on their relationship. Shannon reminds him of that past, sharing his passion for history, the world’s ethnic peoples and the paths they trod. His parishioners help set up interviews for Shannon in her research into the life of a white girl captured long ago by two native tribes, ending up with the Arapaho. Lizzie, the white captive girl, had lived a fascinating life as Arapaho wife, mother and grandmother, never wanting to reestablish her white roots when given the chance. Her progeny are anxious to shares stories about her with Shannon and offer gracious welcomes.

Coel fills her pages with legends from the past, retold by younger Arapaho tribal members in glowing voice. As a native, Vicky understands her tribal clients’ needs. Together in friendship with Father John, she becomes unwittingly involved in their personal and spiritual lives. Wide-reaching tentacles of at least three separate problems converge to complicate more than that number of Arapaho families. A conclusion is finally reached, but the package may or may not be tied with a neat bow. Coel leaves room for speculation about the future of Father John’s ministry, his relationship with Vicky and changes that may come to Wind River Reservation.

WINTER’S CHILD entertains and educates. Shannon’s research, Vicky’s legal complexities, at least three murders and miscellaneous crimes combine for attention. Vicky and Father John merit outstanding places in future Wind River mystery sagas.

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on November 11, 2016

Winter's Child: A Wind River Mystery
by Margaret Coel

  • Publication Date: September 5, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • ISBN-10: 0425280330
  • ISBN-13: 9780425280331