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by Margaret Coel
Berkley, September 2003
276 pages
ISBN: 042519261X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The newly opened Great Plains Casino has proven to be a mixed blessing to the Native American population of the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.

True, it's produced badly needed jobs, but when the body of a white man is discovered in a shallow grave, it marks the beginning of a disturbing trail of murder, intrigue and financial wrong-doing.

Reservation priest Father John O'Malley faces the challenge of guiding his Native American flock on two fronts when he is among the first on the murder scene. At first he is mainly interested in finding Lela Running Bull, a frightened 15-year-old girl who he is convinced can lead to the killer. But when old friend Vicky Holden is hired as in-house counsel at the casino, he also gets drawn into a suspicious picture of possible financial fraud with the payoff so rich that a murder or two almost seems a logical consequence.

From the beginning the casino had a rocky start with opposition from Captain Jack Monroe and his group of protesters called the Rangers. They say that they're afraid that compulsive gambling might end up making life worse for many on the reservation. But would the aggressive protesters carry their opposition to the extreme of murder?    

Against her better judgment, Arapaho attorney Holden let herself get talked into taking the job of checking casino contracts by Adam Lone Eagle, but soon begins to suspect she was offered the position to help dull opposition to the casino, which is run at the top by Lodestar Enterprises, a "white man's" management company. And even though she's a casino attorney, Vicky finds she's denied access to anything but the contracts she's working on, further intensifying her suspicions.

Before long, the tangled web produced by the protesters and the shadowy and secretive management company has her life hanging by the proverbial thread as O'Malley races to save her life.

While the novel doesn't dwell on the matter, it's obvious there's an attraction between O'Malley and Holden which the priest's vows will never allow to intensify.

KILLING RAVEN is an interesting look at the Arapaho culture by an author who is a recognized authority in this area. It probes the gritty reality of reservation life, where compulsive drinking and gambling are a way of life. 

This is the ninth Father O'Malley mystery featuring the ex-alcoholic priest who was banished by the Church hierarchy to the poor Wind River Reservation

Reviewed by Gary Svoboda, August 2003

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