Wind River Reservation #20
By Margaret Coel
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
In the midst of a blizzard, Myra and Eldon Little Shield found an abandoned baby on their doorstep and brought her inside. Five years later, no one has come back to claim the little girl now known as Mary Anne Little Shield. But now that she’s old enough to start school, her foster parents fear social services will take her—a white child—away from them.
Determined to adopt Mary Anne, the Little Shields hire lawyer Clint Hopkins, who wants Vicky as co-counsel on the case. But before their meeting can take place, a black truck deliberately runs Hopkins down in the street.
Enlisting Father John to help investigate who would kill to stop the child’s adoption, Vicky unravels a connection between the five-year-old girl and a missing alcoholic Arapaho wanted for robbery—only to uncover one of the darkest secrets in Wind River’s history…(from Goodreads)
The Wind River Reservation series is another of my favorite cozies that blends history and mystery, past and present, so it was with sadness that I learned ‘Winter’s Child’ would be the last in this series. The pages in this novel turned way too quickly for my happiness! ‘Winter’s Child’ captivated me from the very beginning through to the final page.
Clint Hopkins, the best adoption attorney in the area, asked Vicky was asked to work as co-counsel with him on a case. She met him at an attorney’s dinner where he would share his brief notes, then they would discuss them in the morning. Except that Clint didn’t see the next morning. Vicky and another attorney witnessed him being run down as he crossed the street after the meeting, and the vehicle didn’t stop. Vicky believed the truck was waiting for him and deliberately ran him down, while other witnesses felt that the driver of the truck simply didn’t see him through the heavy falling snow and may not have even know that he/ she had hit someone.
The case was regarding a husband and wife who, five years earlier, had lost their infant girl and the wife, Myra was grieving terribly. Only weeks later, early on a snowy morning an infant girl was left in a box on their doorstep; while they heard someone outside and went to find the child, they only saw a woman with long black hair running into a truck they couldn’t identify through the snow as it sped away. They never contacted the police on the rez and now, as the girl was five, they learned that they should legally adopt her. What made the case unusual is that Arapahoes usually wouldn’t be adopting a caucasian child.
Vicky had a very pressing case ongoing for a young man, an alcoholic. She tried to get a deal from the prosecutor that if he turned himself in, they would reduce his charges and his time served would be in the rehab they would take him to. His mother was happy, until he didn’t turn himself in. When Vicky finally located him, he had a gun, a wad of money, enough booze for a day or two…and he wouldn’t go. His mother refused to give up on him; Vicky quickly tried to learn what Clint had that could cause him to seek co-counsel. He left very little in the way of notes on this or any case – his valuable notes were in his head, and he took them to the grave.
Vicky contacted Father John O’Malley about the pending adoption to see what he knew of the family. Neither could foresee the terrible secrets that would come to light through the case.
Father John’s niece Shannon was writing her dissertation on a pair of sisters from the 1800’s who had been kidnapped by Cheyenne; one sister was able to get away from her captors, but her baby sister was traded with Arapahoe. The younger sister, Lizzie, always thought of herself as Arapahoe in spite of her obvious difference in appearance. She married, had children, and died on the rez in the early 20th century. Shannon hoped to find Lizzie’s real history, the stuff that the history books omit. It is in hearing about Lizzie and Shannon’s finding that Vicky begins to understand a bit about the mystery of the adoption.
The characters are as well-developed as necessary for each of their roles. I think that I could meet either Father John or Vicky and be able to converse with them based on how they have been described, their actions and conversations. I admire an author who presents any person in a position of authority or with a successful career who is an alcoholic; Father John was not long out of rehab when he was sent by the Jesuits to the mission. Also a delight is the elderly, retired Bishop, Harry, who also resides there. The poignancy is not lost of a man who had been so active during his decades in varying capacities with the Jesuits who is now trying to be useful. In contrast is Shannon, with her brilliance and youthful energy, someone who will be a delight to Father John and the Bishop, and is probably the most open- book person in the novel. The author’s care for each person she writes about is obvious when reading about each person.
The plot is amazing! I love the multiple mysteries; the twists and turns change the reader’s view of them. Just when I thought I knew what the answers were, and couldn’t understand why Vicky wasn’t seeing them, she surprised me with some answers I hadn’t thought of. Two of the scenes were so filled with suspense that I couldn’t stop reading even though I was afraid to see what would occur! It was with mixed emotions that I finished the novel; while the ending was overall satisfying, I could feel hope for several of the characters and sadness for a couple others. I highly recommend ‘Winter’s Child’ to those who enjoy well-written cozy mysteries served with a side of history and the savory seasoning of a rural setting on a Native American reservation. I also look forward to this wonderful author’s next writing endeavor!