The Spider’s Web (A Wind River Reservation Mystery)
By: Margaret Coel
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Publication Date: September 2010
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor
Review Date: September 2010
This is the fifteenth novel in the bestselling Wind River Mystery series and, all I can say is, this author keeps getting better and better with each new project she delivers. The characters readers love are back in action; Attorney at law Vicky Holden, and Father John O’Malley, an Irishman from Boston who has been the pastor of St. Francis mission church located on the Wind River Reservation for the last ten years.
Father John is just amazed when he receives the call that yet another murder has taken place on the reservation. A young man the Father has known for years, Ned Windsong, has been found inside his home; dead from a gunshot wound. Beside the body, curled up on the floor, the police also discovered Marcy Morrison, an outsider who was supposedly Ned’s fiancée.
Fr. John rushes to the scene and meets up with the ex-linebacker, opera loving FBI Agent, Gianelli. The good Father tells the agent that the victim had just gotten back into town about two weeks ago and had stopped by the parish. He’d been a little distant and slightly shaky, but no matter how hard Father John had tried to get Ned to confide in him, the young man had remained quiet. The only information the Father did know, was that Ned had returned to the reservation in order to practice for the Sun Dance – a fantastic ritual that would help Ned change his life and find atonement for his sins – whatever those may have been.
The only eyewitness to this horrific event, Marcy Morrison, is someone Father John rushes to meet up with. As he gets to know the young woman, he feels as if something is extremely “off” with her story. You see, Marcy is a girl from Jackson Hole that Ned met when he left the reservation for a better job and a better life. The girl claims that Ned had let go of his original girlfriend – a woman by the name of Roseanne Birdsong – who had been Ned’s significant other for a long time, and who is now embroiled in this hideous crime. Marcy also claims that two frightening-looking Arapaho Indians busted into the house, shot Ned, and left her for dead; she also identifies these two men from photographs given to her by Agent Gianelli. These two men are most definitely a frightening pair of characters who’ve been in trouble with the law most of their lives. But they also make it very clear that they did not hurt Ned Windsong. In fact, the two accused seem to be frightened that they will soon be joining him.
Vicky Holden comes into the mix. Vicky has had a law practice for quite a long time and she’s a bit surprised when a man dressed to the nines, wearing a huge diamond ring, walks into her office and hires her to “watch out for the interests of his daughter.” This man is Larry Morrison, a rather famous TV evangelist who has been called by the FBI to let him know that Marcy may be in serious trouble. The TV reverend is an extremely cold individual, and Vicky notes quite quickly that the daughter deeply despises her wealthy father. She takes on Marcy as a client because she knows that outsiders can very easily be blamed for things they didn’t do, and she doesn’t want the tide to turn against the young, supposedly innocent, girl.
This is the first time in this series that the attraction between John and Vicky is put on the back-burner. In this tale they’re on opposite sides as Vicky tends to believe everything that her client says, and Father John feels that there’s far more to the story than the girl is letting on. With two more murders, a burglary ring exposed, and a psychotic stranger who hides it very, very well, this story becomes a complete and utter page-turner that no reader will be able to put down. From the first page, the author introduces us to an Arapaho word: Niatha. This is the word for spider, a creature that is beyond mysterious. (It also happens to be the Arapaho word for ‘white person,’ a fact which becomes very interesting indeed). Like the creature she mentions, this author weaves her tale of mystery with expert precision.
Quill says: Not since the unequaled talent of Agatha Christie, have I read a mystery novel that I really couldn’t figure out until the last page. If you’re already a fan of the Wind River series, than you will scream with joy when this book appears on the shelf. If you’ve not become a part of this gorgeous world, I suggest you run – not walk – to the nearest book store or library and begin immediately. Take a three-day weekend and immerse yourselves in this sun-drenched Arapaho world filled with intrigue, suspense, and the forbidden. Believe me when I say you’ll be beyond happy that you followed Feathered Quill’s advice on this one. Enjoy!