Those Who Came Before

J.H. Moncrieff. Flame Tree, $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-78758-299-6
On its face, this promising horror thriller with a Native American main character calls out the atrocities suffered by America’s indigenous population, but it soon becomes clear that the underlying narrative buys into harmful stereotypes. The setting is Clear Springs, a thinly described fictional town that could be anywhere between Georgia and Ontario; the area’s Native Americans, the Strong Lake Band, are likewise divorced from any real nations or cultures. Detective Maria Greyeyes, who has Native blood but was raised far from her roots, is called on to investigate a triple homicide at a campground the local Natives avoid because of rumors of evil spirits. When Maria enlists Chief Kinew to find the killer, she begins to learn more about her heritage and the area’s “lost tribe.” Sadly, the positive portrayals of Natives are overshadowed by the “savage Indian” trope and other clichés, including benevolent matriarchy, shamanic mysticism, and alcoholism. In addition to weak characterizations, the alternation between a survivor’s disjointed first-person narration and Maria’s emotionally distant third-person sections makes the story hard to follow. Liberal quantities of gore (“I saw a young woman turned into a puddle”) can’t keep this novel from being sluggish and unsatisfying. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 08/12/2019
Release date: 10/01/2019
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-78758-297-2
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