The Girl with Braided Hair
The skeleton of a young woman is discovered in a dry gully on the Wind River Reservation. Remnants of a long, black braid are mixed with the bones. There is a bullet hole in the skull. Forensics determine the woman was shot-to-death in 1973.
1973, the year of AIM. The American Indian Movement had occupied the town of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Afterward, Indians under federal indictment had gone into hiding on other reservations, including Wind River. A year of fear and violence, when no one could be trusted, when anyone might be an FBI snitch.
Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden and Father John O'Malley are determined to find the identity of the forgotten woman and see that she is laid to rest in the traditional Arapaho Way. Their search leads them into the 1970s and the dark underbelly of an organization that had spoken out on behalf of Indian rights. They soon run into a wall of silence. No one wants to talk about a time when many crimes, including murder, went unsolved. No one wants to admit the part they may have played, or the guilt they may still carry. No one wants to remember a young woman accused of being a snitch.
As the life and death of the woman begin to come into view, Vicky and Father John realize that the killer who has gotten away with murder for more than thirty years is still on the reservation and that they are about to be his next victims.
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Berkley; Reprint edition, September 2008, ISBN: 978-0425223277
Winner of 2008 Colorado Book Award and recipient of the Rocky Award for Best Mystery Novel set in the American West!
"Coel's 13th Wind River mystery (after 2006's The Drowning Man) is far more engaging than its bland title might suggest. The discovery of skeletal remains still bearing a long dark braid of hair opens deep wounds among the Native Americans who live on Wyoming's Wind River reservation. Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden's efforts to identify the woman, apparently a murder victim, cause tension with her love interest and law partner, Adam Lone Eagle, driving her to enlist the aid of their friend Fr. John O'Malley. A rash of threats and the murder of a woman Vicky questioned confirms her suspicions that members of a 1970s activist group, the American Indian Movement, are still on the rez and somehow involved in all the happenings. Bringing her trademark western flair to nonstop action, Coel keeps danger hanging over Vicky's head as she follows a trail of clues to their startling conclusion."
"Another wonderfully evocative story of the struggles of the Arapaho to retain their heritage while living in a white man's world."
"As is customary in the series, there is a wealth of background on native customs, past and present, and the descriptions are real and poignant. The past includes flashbacks to the American Indian Movement in 1973, and the violence, much less discrimination, against native Americans at the time. Descriptions of the West and the Plains are vivid. The novel is a welcome addition to the series. Highly recommended."
Gloria Feit, Crimespree Magazine
"Why Margaret Coel's books are not as well known as Tony Hillerman's is a mystery to me. She brings to life the culture and history of the Arapaho Indian Tribe of the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. Her latest mystery, The Girl with Braided Hair, is one of her masterpieces. She skillfully ties together a cold case, American Indian history, and the repercussions that still reverberate through the reservation, thirty-four years later..."
Lesa Holstine, Lesa's Book Critiques (read full review here)
"Coel weaves a compelling tale with very human characters, dealing with their own problems as well as the crime puzzle at the heart of the plot. The victim is not a mere statistic and the catalyst for an investigation; she is a person who hoped and dreamed and lived and feared until that last moment when a selfish and ruthless killer decided she stood in his way. Similarly, we see into the lives of Vicky and Father John, who are struggling with changing circumstancesand as we all know, change can be very unwelcome. Coel has an impressive background in native history as well as the talent to bring her characters to life. The Girl with Braided Hair is an engrossing read."
BookLoons.com (read full review here)
"The author creates a very real atmosphere, and even those readers who have never been near a rez will come to understand the unique set of challenges and tradition that reside there. With each new installment, the characters grow and deepen, making the series a find for the new reader, while giving continuing rewards to longtime fans."
Deborah Hern, CA Reviews (read full review here)
"What sets this book apart from many of the books set in Indian Country, is that it reminds the reader of the continuing struggles of modern day Native American people in our country. While today's readers can only read about the Indian Wars of the 1800's and about the struggles with the westward moving white settlers, The Girl with Braided Hair is set against tragic events in the not too distant past that many readers will remember. This book reminds readers that while the incidents at Pine Ridge and Wounded Knee are over, the struggles of our Native American Peoples that precipitated the incidents are not.
Coel lets readers, through the various characters, see both sides of the struggles that occurred in the 1970's. While the media focus was on the Native Americans supporting the AIM, many of the peoples did not and many more, as several characters in thus book, were caught between the two groups. All of this makes for fascinating reading.
While The Girl with Braided Hair is quite an enjoyable mystery, it is much more. Coel has used her many talents to remind readers of painful era in our history from many perspectives. "
Caryn St. Clair, Dorothy L
"...thoughtfully and beautifully written.... She writes about the Native Americans of Wind River with love and respect, but doesn't try to gloss over their faults. This is another fine entry in the series, and it is my favorite. So far."
Shirley Wetzel, Over My Dead Body
"A fine mystery with interesting characters and a compelling story, The Girl with Braided Hair is first-rate and a fine read."
A.L. Katz, ReviewingTheEvidence.com
"... the best in the series so far, and that's saying quite a bit, as I've loved them all.... Margaret Coel can always be counted on for not only an entertaining read and a great mystery, but for teaching the reader new facts about Native American culture and history. I can't wait to see where Ms. Coel takes this series next."
Kay Martinez, Dorothy L