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by Marcia Muller
Grand Central Publishing, August 2021
272 pages
ISBN: 1538733161

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Seasoned professional PI Sharon McCone is hired by a group called Crimes Against Indigenous Women up north in remote Meruk County, California to investigate the deaths of two local Indigenous women. Undercover, working in isolation in hostile conditions, McCone must call on all the internal resources she has honed in her years of investigation to track down the truth, and the killer.

Fans of PI McCone will no doubt relish the chance to solve another crime with her, and Muller takes us into a world where the weather isn’t the only thing obscuring the view. As she navigates the web of jurisdiction on and off the reservation, the reader sees how dramatically the laws don’t apply equally.

Shoshone by birth, McCone, a woman raised off the reservation by whites, must unpack decades of racism underneath the immediate crimes as she discovers that only some criminals are brought to justice. Others are allowed to simply fall through the cracks in the system.

While using the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women movement as a possible red herring might be problematic in other hands, Muller manages to educate her readers about MMIW (and much more) with sensitivity and respect. By placing the story against a grim, completely non-fictional backdrop, Muller shines a light upon quite a few under-reported crises within the Native American community without exploiting the victims.

Instead, she calls attention to how the victims and their families have been brutally neglected, for years. The apparent cynicism of many of the characters PI McCone encounters in Meruk works to reinforce the assumption that some crimes will never be solved, and that mistreatment of Native Americans is criminally common. The resources McCone must call upon, such as the so-called “moccasin telegraph” and her own birth mother are as effective as they are subversive.

Even with her team back in San Francisco, and a few good men seeking justice for the women they love, McCone must use every asset at her disposal to stay alive while unwrapping the many layers of deception surrounding the murders.

With lots of characters both engagingly quirky and utterly sinister, ICE AND STONE is an absorbing mystery with the right amounts of both levity and nail-biting drama, with a few important civics lessons thrown in before a few big satisfying twists bring the many threads together at the end.

§ Originally from the misty atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest, Alison Gates is a working artist and a college professor by day. She occasionally reviews art exhibitions for Surface Design Journal, or books on scholarly subjects for Resources for Gender and Women’s Studies: A Feminist Review. At night, she becomes an avid mystery and crime fiction reader at her cozy home in Northeast Wisconsin.

Reviewed by Alison Gates, April 2021

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