About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

(28. - 1133.) Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden - Virgil Wounded Horse exacts justice. His justice. With fists and feet, for a fee of $100 per tooth knocked out or bone broken, he punishes the wicked on the huge Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. Sometimes he works for free. 

Virgil does not believe in traditional rituals and ceremonies. He no longer drinks.

Every society has its distinctions. Virgil is iyake (half-blood). All his life there have been full bloods looking down upon him.

Life is hard on the rez. Virgil lives with his nephew, Nathan. Money is short. When he is offered a job by Councilor Ben Short Bear, worth $5,000 rather than the usual few hundred, Virgil is tempted but needs to be sure that Rick Crow is truly evil and a threat to the rez. Virgil and Rick have had a long and difficult personal relationship.

The book is unflinching in its portrayal of the poverty and social problems upon the reservation. Most reservation residents are unemployed or semi-employed. Many families are broken. Despair and boredom are everywhere. Young suicides occur regularly.

Some residents do very well. Usually they are in governance. Ben Short Bear has a good income and expense allowances. His wife, Ann, comes from a well-to-do Osage family in Oklahoma. She can shop and travel around America. They are pushing  their daughter, Marie, to go to medical school.

Marie and Virgil had lived together but their personal relationship faltered. 

Reserve residents enjoy time together. Whether for a burger or a smoke or a drink or a visit to the casino they are constantly meeting.

While not spiritual, Virgil has a strong spirit though he struggles to find a focus to his life.

Drugs have become as prevalent on the reservation as alcohol. When Nathan is affected, Virgil is drawn into challenging the traffickers of heroin.

Marie and Virgil re-establish their relationship. Their future is uncertain.

There are layers of moral issues. The pursuit of evil is difficult. Like real life the investigation is frustrating with menace constantly lurking.

It is more of a thriller rather than a mystery. With the vivid depictions of the rez, well drawn descriptions of its people and a credible plot I was drawn swiftly through the book.

The author states:

Winter Counts is one of the first modern thrillers written by a Native American author.

Virgil is a great character. I am glad he will be featured in at least one more book.

Winter Counts is a distinctive memorable book.

1 comment:

  1. I can see how you'd be drawn into this one, Bill. I have to admit, I don's usually go for vigilantism in my reading (and certainly not in real life). But it sounds as though it fits in with this story. And the honest look at rez life appeals to me, too. I'm glad you found it a good read.