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THE SILENT SPIRIT
by Margaret Coel
Berkley, September 2009
336 pages
$24.95
ISBN: 0425229769


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In 1923, Hollywood made what was to become the first great western epic silent film. It was called The Covered Wagon and it was made with a different twist, with real Native Americans playing the part of the Indians. Respected cowboy star Tim McCoy contracted his Arapaho and Shoshone friends on the Wind River Reservation to play the Indians in this silent movie. Because of McCoy's insistence , the film company was made to treat the Native Americans with fairness and respect and they in turn helped make the movie true to life. The Covered Wagon became a huge success.

Afterwards, all the Indians retuned home to the Reservation, that is, all except one. Charlie Wallowingbull was never seen again. It was said that Charlie didn't want to go back to the reservation and went off the California to make a new life, but his young wife refused to believe that Charlie would desert her and abandon his young son. She heard rumors that there had been some bad blood on the movie set and that Charlie might have been killed. But the years went by and Charlie was never seen or heard from again.

In the new century, Charlie's great-grandson Kiki Wallowingbull was having a difficult life. After having done time for drugs, Kiki seemed to become obsessed with what happened to his great- grandfather. He was certain that Charlie had been murdered by someone in the film industry. He swore to his grandfather, Charlie's son, that he had given up the druggie life and would spend time searching for what really happened to his great grandfather. He said he wanted the truth to come out so that Charlie's family could have some justice while they were still alive

Meanwhile the folks on the reservation were celebrating that their priest, Father John O'Malley had just returned to them after a six month stay in Rome. After he had been home a few days, Kiki visited Father John and asked him to help him prove that Charlie had really been killed. Knowing of Kiki's drug past, Father John didn't think much of his theory, that is until he found Kiki's body, dead and half-frozen in a deserted place.

Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden heard that Father John had returned, but after their long and hard almost love relationship, couldn't trust herself to see him again. Her law firm and her life were going well - until she really looked at it closely. Though she was making money, in her heart she felt that working for the higher-ups in the Indian Council wasn't as satisfying to her as helping the individual people on the reservation who had looked to her as their last chance. Her love affair with her law partner was, as usual, on again off again and Vicky didn't know which way she liked it better.

Then late one night she got a phone call from a weeping man, who wouldn't say his name but who confessed to killing Kiki Wallowingbull. When she found out that Kiki had really been killed, Vicky found herself pushing everything else aside to again work for the helpless on the reservation. She also found herself paired with Father John once again until both their lives were jeopardized from Kiki's left-over past and present troubles.

The readers who have spent the last fourteen years reading about Vicky Holden and Father John in Margaret Coel's Wind River Reservation Mystery series will not be at all disappointed with this latest novel. Along with a very interesting main story, dealing with an actual Hollywood silent movie, author Margaret Coel manages to move the strained relationship between the Arapaho lawyer and the Jesuit priest forward. Once again, the author manages to build on their relationship while not losing any respect that the readers feel for the two people.

Yet another wonderfully detailed book about life on the Wyoming Indian reservation, THE SILENT SPIRIT will bring you to another world and teach you something about the American past and present.

Reviewed by A.L. Katz, August 2009

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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