Monday, September 03, 2012

Buffalo Bill's Dead Now by Margaret Coel

No one meshes the historical stories of the American Indians and their contemporary lives on the reservation as well as Margaret Coel. And, she does it while writing intriguing mysteries that are dependent on an understanding of human nature. Her latest mystery set on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, Buffalo Bill's Dead Now, is one of her strongest stories.

The entire reservation is awaiting the arrival of Chief Black Hawk's regalia. The St. Francis Mission museum on the reservation has received a gift from a donor, the return of the regalia that had disappeared in Germany in 1890. When Chief Black Hawk returned to the United States after touring with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, his headdress and other ornamental clothing disappeared, supposedly taken by his adopted son. At least that was the rumor on the reservation, although Black Hawk denied it, saying Sonny Yellow Robe would not have taken it. Now, after more than 120 years, the regalia has been returned. However, when the museum staff open it in front of Black Hawk's descendant, there's nothing in the shipping box.

As the priest at the mission, Father John O'Malley is immediately caught up in the mystery of the missing artifacts. And, Vicky Holden, the Arapaho attorney, is the lawyer for the collector who donated the artifacts. When Trevor Pratt storms out of the museum, Vicky suspects he knows who the thieves are. When, Father John and Vicky find Pratt murdered on his home, after they were almost run off the road by a speeding car, they suspect they may have just missed the killers. Although they realize Black Hawk's regalia may be lost forever to the Arapaho, they hope to find a killer, and clear the names of some suspects on the reservation.But, the stories and suspicions go back to 1890, and that celebrated tour of Europe when the Arapaho appeared with Buffalo Bill.

Coel's mysteries always revolve around understanding, understanding history and human nature. As a former history teacher, and, now, a priest ministering to the Arapaho, Father John O'Malley understands the complications involved in both. Coel skillfully brings the history of the tribe into many of her books, while reminding us that people don't change. There are always evil people hoping to capitalize on others' weaknesses. Her books succeed in bringing history and the Wind River Reservation to life.

At the same time, Margaret Coel understands that readers are interested in more than life on the grand stage of history or the reservation. Coel's readers are interested in Father John O'Malley and Vicky Holden, their relationship, and their relationship to the life of the community. The novels continue to revolve around the life on the reservation, while focusing on her two protagonists. Coel teases readers, bringing Adam Lone Eagle back into Vicky's life, while tempting Father John and Vicky to make more of their friendship

Buffalo Bill's Dead Now is one of Coel's strongest novels in recent years. It does exactly what her readers expect and appreciate. She manages to juxtapose crimes in the past with crimes on the reservation now, while showing that human nature doesn't change over centuries. And, she once again takes us into the lives of beloved characters, Father John O'Malley and Vicky Holden.

Margaret Coel's website is

Buffalo Bill's Dead Now by Margaret Coel. Berkley Prime Crime. 2012. ISBN 9780425252710 (hardcover), 304p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publicist sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Karen C said...

This sounds like such a good book. Do you need to read all of the books in the series or can you start with this one? And I so did not want to start another series! ;O)

Lesa said...


Honestly, with this series, you could start with this one. I like to watch Vicky's changing situation, but that's OK. You can still start with this one. Then, you won't have to worry about going back to start an entire series.

Beth Hoffman said...

Though this isn't my usual fare in books, I loved your review, Lesa, and I'm adding it to my list. It's good to know that I don't need to start at the beginning of the series.

Lesa said...

Margaret Coel covers a fascinating part of Arapaho history in this book, Beth. I think you'll like it!