The Only Good Indians

by Stephen Graham Jones
Saga Press, July 2020, $26.99

An extremely effective mix of supernatural tropes and themes that should be familiar to readers of Graham Masterton’s The Manitou, and Peter Straub’s Ghost Story, The Only Good Indians tells the story of a group of contemporary Native American friends who commit a crime against nature and are made to pay under horrific and tragic circumstances, some ten years later.

Jones’ latest is a gripping, thrilling work of suspense and horror, which builds dread at an agonizingly slow pace, only to have that growing dread abruptly terminated via sudden violence. So well-crafted is the narrative, that I actually startled once. There’s also a protracted chase scene toward the end of the book that shouldn’t work, but does, such is the reader’s investment in the book’s characters and its macabre goings-on. At the same time, it provides a realistic, grounded view into the lives of modern Native American characters, providing glimpses of the trials and travails unique to their everyday existence.

Although a bit disjointed at times, and plagued by abrupt changes in point of view, it is a thriller that is also poignant, as readers are easily able to see, and sympathize with, both perpetrators and avenger. Despite their youthful misdeeds, the pursued are just ordinary folks, trying to get by. The vengeful pursuer, a literal force of nature, is a mother who lost her child, still in pain a decade after suffering at their hands. They are deeply repentant for the thoughtless, impetuous acts of their youth, but that doesn’t matter to their tormentor, intent as she is on payback.

Hank Wagner
Teri Duerr
Graham Jones
July 2020
Saga Press