The Man Who Fell from the Sky
Wind River Reservation, Book #19
By Margaret Coel
Author Website: www.margaretcoel.com
New York Times bestselling author Margaret Coel returns to Wind River with Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden and Father John O’Malley investigating a lethal link between legendary outlaw Butch Cassidy and a present-day murder…
When Robert Walking Bear’s body is found in the Wind River mountains, his death appears to be accidental—except for the fact that he had been hunting for Butch Cassidy’s buried loot with a map he had gotten from his grandfather, a map believed to have been drawn by the leader of the Hole in the Wall gang himself.
It isn’t long before rumors circulate that Robert was murdered by his own cousins to get the map and find the treasure themselves. Despite there being no evidence of foul play, the gossip gains credibility when both Vicky and Father John are contacted by an anonymous Arapaho claiming to have witnessed Robert’s killing.
When one of Robert’s cousins falls prey to another deadly accident, Vicky and Father John are convinced the victim is the witness who confided in them, and the hunt for the killer is on in earnest—before more die in search of Cassidy’s cache. (Goodreads)
What a great read! The Wind River Reservation series, of which ‘The Man Who Fell from the Sky’ is #19, has quickly become one of my new favorite series – AKA ones that I look forward to the next release and hope to catch up on it’s earlier mysteries. Margaret Coel’s descriptions of life on the Reservation, the incredible vast wilderness, and the pragmatic outlook of those who live there is, for me, a series I could get lost in regularly. She brings the history of the American West to life, interspersing a fictional account of actual people and events. Add a mysterious death and the ability of an attorney and a priest in recovery to work together to find the bad guy/ gal, and I’m there. This can be read as a stand-alone or as part of the series. While I have only read one other in the series, my appetite has absolutely been whetted for more.
The mystery was intriguing; a man died in what appeared to be an accidental drowning. There was no evidence of any foul play, just the little doubt planted by an anonymous caller led Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden to contact the local FBI investigator, Ted Gianelli, to see if further investigation was warranted. It seemed that the dead man, Robert Walking Bear, had “the” map left to his family by Butch Cassidy and passed down through generations. He had spent much of his free time since his grandfather passed hunting the treasure that George “Butch” Cassidy had buried in the area. There were concerns that perhaps Robert had found the treasure and someone killed him and stole it. Ruth, his widow, wanted the investigation to be completed so her husband could be buried properly; she didn’t believe there was a treasure..
A couple months before Robert’s death, distant cousin Jimmy “Cutter” Walking Bear had returned to the rez to reconnect with his family and spending time with them. He had begun to make a play for Vicky – but perhaps he was a little close to the widow, too?
While the investigation was being conducted, a documentary about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was being filmed in the area, which fueled the idea that the deceased had possibly found the treasure – at least among those who thought there really was a treasure.
The characters who are typically in the story, Vicky Holden and Father John O’Malley and those immediately around them in their respective places of work, are fully three-dimensional. Their respective histories are outlined as necessary, as are their friendships and/ or working relationships. While they do not speak about themselves very much, they are an open book to the reader. I like both Vicky and Father John; they have both been through very tough times and did what was necessary to go forward and contribute to the lives of others. While I would like to see Vicky adopt either the faith she was raised in at the Mission school or the Native American ways of her family, I think that her indecision contributes to the personality of the attorney we know and love. Some of the minor or short-term characters are defined as well as needed for their roles. I do enjoy the stories from the elderly, and seeing the interplay of family members (vultures) after Robert’s death. Cutter seemed almost too forceful for me to enjoy, as did Bernie and her husband Big Man.
This novel was made even more enjoyable when I recognized the phrase “fell from the sky” in the prose and saw who and what situation was related to the reference. I haven’t read enough of the series yet to be accustomed to the play on words used in the titles. There were sufficient plot twists to rival the mountain roads and increase the suspense. There was no shortage of suspects, and no proof that the man was murdered. At some point the reader has to decide – murder or accident? If murder, whodunit and why? This is a very skillfully written mystery that I highly recommend to fans of Margaret Coel and Native American lands and history of the US western states.