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WIFE OF MOON
by Margaret Coel
Berkley Prime Crime, September 2004
274 pages
$22.95
ISBN: 0425198146


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In 1907, photographer Edward Curtis visited the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. He wanted to take pictures of the way things were before the Arapaho were moved to the reservation. He staged a village with real tipis, people wearing clothing made of animal skins, and an attack by marauding Indians. The guns were supposed to be loaded with blanks. The unthinkable happened. Bashful Woman, daughter of a chief and married to a white man named Carston Evans was shot and killed.

Father John Aloysius O'Malley is the Jesuit pastor of the mission on the Arapaho Wind River Reservation. Things are going well. Father John has a new assistant, Father Damien Henley and has hired Christine Nelson as curator for the Arapaho Museum. Father Henley is working out well and has lots of new ideas. Christine Nelson hit the ground running and brought an exhibition of Curtis photographs to the museum.

Father O'Malley is called to the home of TJ Painted Horse where a suicide has been reported. O'Malley can't understand why TJ, one of the leading men on the reservation, a member of the tribal council and former state legislator would take his own life. John is doubly surprised when he learns it is TJ's wife Denise who is dead. She didn't leave a suicide note. There is some question about whether her death was a suicide, accident or murder. TJ's family hires Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden to represent him.

Shortly after Denise Painted Horses' death, Christine Nelson doesn't appear for work. Father O'Malley finds her home ransacked. O'Malley and Vicky wonder if there is a connection between Denise's death and Christine's disappearance.

Coel writes in a very easy, clean style. In WIFE OF MOON, the chapters shift back and forth between the past in 1907 and the present. Coel quilts together these stories with compassion and sensitivity. This reader is very interested in photography and it helped keep me completely engaged in the story. O'Malley and Holden are a very interesting and successful sleuthing pair. They have been able to maintain their friendship while trying to dampen the electricity that is between them. Coel, knowing that their relationship can go no further than friendship, wisely introduced a potential love interest for Holden in an earlier novel and he makes a return visit in this one.

There is a certain mystique to the term Native American and a desire to learn more about these people and a way of life that is vanishing. Most readers have never met a Native American. It is through books written by authors like Louise Erdrich, Leslie Marmon Silko, Sherman Alexie, Tony Hillerman, and Margaret Cole that this contact is made.

WIFE OF MOON is the tenth book in the very successful series by Margaret Coel featuring Father O'Malley and Vicky Holden. Maintaining the same quality of excellence throughout a series is difficult. Some stories are going to be better than others. In WIFE OF MOON, Coel tells a good story, shares knowledge about Curtis and photography and maintains her obvious love and admiration for the Arapaho and the Wind River Reservation. The result will satisfy the author's fans.

Reviewed by Lane Wright, August 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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