margaret coel
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        Winter's Child
        Man Who Fell from Sky
        Night of the White Buffalo
        Killing Custer
        Buffalo Bill's Dead Now
        The Perfect Suspect
        The Spider's Web
        Silent Spirit
        Blood Memory
        Girl w/ Braided Hair
        Drowning Man
        Eye of the Wolf
        Wife of Moon
        Killing Raven
        Shadow Dancer
        Thunder Keeper
        Spirit Woman
        Lost Bird
        Story Teller
        Dream Stalker
        Ghost Walker
        Eagle Catcher
readers guides

short stories

wind river




Winter's Child

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The Shadow Dancer The Shadow Dancer

Dean Little Horse, a talented young man, is missing on the Wind River Reservation. Ben Holden, Vicky Holden's ex-husband, a well known, and highly respected man on the reservation, is found murdered. And James Sherwood, who calls himself Orlando, has proclaimed himself the son of Wovoka, the prophet of the Ghost Dance religion that swept the plains in the 1880s with the promise of a new world, an Indian paradise.

While Father John searches for Dean, Vicky learns that she is the primary suspect in Ben's murder. Eventually, Father John and Vicky come to believe that Dean's disappearance and Ben's murder are connected...

And the connection is the shadow dancer. Racing against time, Father John and Vicky search for the evidence to prevent Vicky from being indicted for a murder she did not commit and to stop a killer from bringing about the fulfillment of his own apocalyptic prophecies.

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Readers Guide


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Penguin paperback, August 2003, ISBN: 978-0425191279


Winner of the Colorado Book Award!

"Skillfully combining the rich history of Native Americans with their life in the 21st century, bestseller Coel offers a fresh story that moves as fast as the moccasin telegraph, the reservation gossip line that spreads news faster than the Internet, in this eighth outing featuring Vicky Holden, Arapaho attorney, and Father John O'Malley, priest of the mission on Wyoming's Wind River Reservation.
    Father John is facing the possible closing of the mission and the sudden disappearance of one of his parishioners when Vicky's ex-husband is murdered and she becomes the chief suspect. Circumstances prompt Vicky to forgo Father John's assistance in her search for the killer, but as they go their separate ways, they each struggle to clarify their feelings for each other. In due course their paths cross at the ranch where James Sherwood, called Orlando by his followers, has resurrected the Shadow Dance religion of the 1890s. Can Sherwood deliver on his promise of an Indian paradise?
    Compared to and praised by Tony Hillerman, Coel not only presents a vivid and authentic picture of the Native American, past and present, but also captures the rugged and majestic atmosphere of Wyoming. Even minor characters are real and human. The poignant ending will catch even the most astute mystery aficionado by surprise."
—Publishers Weekly

A COEL MINE: Boulder author weaves tapestries of Indian culture, modern mysteries
    "Open one of Margaret Coel's mysteries and you step onto the Wind River Reservation in central Wyoming. You feel the dust on your shoes, smell the sage in the dry air and sense the spirit of the ancients around you. Coel has just published The Shadow Dancer, the eighth book in the series and possibly the best one yet.
    Underpinning The Shadow Dancer is extensive historical research. In the book, an Indian claiming to have met the prophet Wovoka in the shadow world sets up shop on a ranch in the mountains above the reservation. There he preaches, as did the actual Wovoka in the late 1880s, that a new world is coming: The white man will be driven away, the buffalo will return, the prairies will be lush with grass and the rivers will run clean.
    The book is filled with authentic details. And everything rings true."
—Leslie Weddell, The Colorado Springs Gazette

PRIME CULT: Sleuths face accusations as Apocalypse looms in Coel's best yet
    "Some authors of mystery series do little more with each new novel than jostle the setting a bit or toss in a couple of new, two-dimensional characters. At their core, such novels remain cookie-cutter replicas of their forebears...
    But even the constraints of writing within a series are not enough to drive the most talented mystery writers to write pale imitations of their own work. Writers such as James Lee Burke and Tony Hillerman simply refuse to do lazy personal pastiche, putting their well-known sleuths/characters through genuine emotional evolution and plunging into current societal debates.
    Boulder novelist Margaret Coel is one of the most satisfying writers in that latter group. Her ongoing Father John O'Malley -Vicky Holden Arapaho mystery series never takes the easy way out, and even when she doesn't quite pull it off, she's always working to do something new.
    The Shadow Dancer is the eighth in the series and Coel's most successful yet. The priest at the St. Francis Mission on the Wind River Reservation in central Wyoming and the Arapaho attorney, freshly returned from a stint in Denver, are facing metaphorically related watershed events in their lives. There is murder, of course, and a large-canvas context for the entire setup, the issue of cults: a local Arapaho from a respected family has returned to the reservation after being struck by lightning (in Boulder) with delusions of almost godllike grandeur.
    It's hard to overstate how neatly Coel has woven this tale together. Seemingly disparate elements come together, apparently frivolous details suddenly matter as resolution looms, and best of all, at no point does all her delicate construction collapse into implausibility.
    Some readers may think they've pegged the solution to this one early on, but only the cleverest (I cannot count myself among them) will piece it all together. Coel wants you to think it's all wrapped up long before it really is."
—Clay Evans, Boulder Camera

"Margaret Coel has written an absorbing and interesting mystery that gives readers a glimpse into the modern day west. The protagonist is a feisty determined woman and her friend catholic priest Father O Malley is her mirror image. Together this unlikely pair gets in and out of trouble so many times it feels as if they are stars in a Wild West epic." Read the full review.

"This is one of the best books in an excellent series."

"Margaret Coel has a rich sense of place and describes the Arapaho/Shoshone reservation so well you can imagine youve been there many times -- and it is for this and her description of reservation life that I read her books so eagerly."

This story about the Shoshone-Arapaho Wind River Reservation inserts the reader into the spiritual world of the two Indian nations and points out the effects that traditional faith/belief systems in the Indian world still have.
    Next to the main protagonists, Arapaho lawyer Vicky Holden and the missionary John O'Malley, a "Prophet" appears - his followers call him Orlando - who wants to bring back to life the old [Shadow Dance] religion on the reservation, and promises all who follow him the direct way into the Indian paradise. Orlando proceeds with determination and fanaticism, and does not shrink back from getting opponents out of the way, in order to speed the arrival of the new, better world.
    In order to understand the effect that such a [healing preacher] has on the Shoshone and Arapaho, Father O'Malley and the Arapaho lawyer must dive into the spiritual foundation of his teachings. They must experience and look through the character of the Shadow Dance, in order to understand which energies a [preacher/proclaimer] such as Orlando effects, and why particularly in Indian country his words resonant so significantly.
    The reader will - in all of Coel's books - be not only [blindingly/dazzlingly] entertained, but is also carried forward on a journey into the Indian world. He learns much about Indian thinking and Indian everyday life, about tradition, [transference/handing down] and the present.
    —Magazin fur Amerikanistik