THE THUNDER KEEPER

Margaret Coel, Author
Margaret Coel, Author . Berkley Prime Crime $22.95 (245p) ISBN 978-0-425-18188-1
Reviewed on: 08/13/2001
Release date: 09/01/2001
Mass Market Paperbound - 256 pages - 978-0-425-18578-0
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 978-0-7865-2860-8
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-7865-2858-5
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In her seventh mystery set among the Arapahos of Wyoming's Wind River Reservation featuring her twin sleuths, Father John O'Malley (on the rez) and Arapaho lawyer Vicky Holden (temporarily transplanted to Denver), Coel gets the atmosphere just right. Every physical detail of the "vision quest" that a desperate young man named Duncan Grover undertakes on a cliff above Bear Lake seems perfect, while the challenges of Vicky's new life as a high-profile attorney are equally sharp. But the actual story here is the problem: it seems to be made up of recycled plot elements from several other recent Western mysteries. Grover's murder, made to look like a suicide, and only uncovered when Father John hears the details in a confession; the heavy-breathing corporate villains seeking to exploit the Native Americans and plunder their riches (not oil or gold this time, but diamonds); the insensitive white cops who just don't get it—surely we've covered this ground before. Too bad, because when Coel writes about Father John's tricky relationship with Vicky (echoed in a lawsuit filed by a frustrated woman against his new assistant), or Vicky's edgy moments with the husband and children she left behind, she is on original and interesting ground. The author's previous books have been justly praised by the likes of Tony Hillerman, but an overly familiar plot this time out could lead to bad word-of-mouth and a falling off in sales. (Sept. 4)

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