Debut novelist D.M. Rowell gives readers a strong taste of her Kiowa culture with this engaging lighter mystery featuring Mae “Mud” Sawpole. Mud is drawn home from Silicon Valley by her beloved grandfather James, a tribal elder, only to find old grudges, a dead body, stolen relics, and lots of dastardly deeds afoot.
The woman her Kiowa tribe knows as Mud has left her tribal roots behind to build a high-powered corporate life for herself over the past decade in California. She’s found herself in some ways, but has she lost herself in others?
On the eve of closing a huge deal at her advertising agency, she returns to Oklahoma only to discover a tribe in disarray and her grandfather missing. Fracking is shattering their lands and dividing the community. Could frackers have kidnapped her grandfather, an artist and story-keeper for the tribe? Or is he on the run after being accused of stealing the priceless Jefferson Peace medal from the tribe’s museum? When Mud and her cousin Denny discover a body in their grandfather’s work room, the stakes could not be higher.
First-time novelist Rowell does a good job drawing readers in and seasoning her tale with lots of Kiowa culture and history, balancing action with some fascinating and memorable characters beyond the intriguing heroine. Readers who prefer staccato plotting may get impatient, but for many others—like me—the insights into Kiowa culture will greatly enrich what is an absorbing and engaging mystery.
Never Name the Dead is a solid first bow for a series that has plenty of potential.