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Friday, December 04, 2020

Series Opener Not So Engaging Second Time Around

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After fighting a debilitating alcohol addiction, Father John O'Malley was sent to the Wind River Reservation in central Wyoming to dry out.  Six years later, he's come to love the Arapaho people he serves, even if he still doesn't fully understand all the nuances of their culture.  He appreciates their ancient traditions and counts the members of his flock as treasured friends.  When Harvey Castle, the tribal chairman, is stabbed to death in his teepee while attending a local powwow, John is just as shocked and sad as everyone else on the rez. 

Suspicion for the murder immediately falls on Harvey's nephew, Anthony, who was heard arguing with his uncle the night before his death.  Although the kid's an undeniable hothead, John doesn't think he's a killer.  Vicky Holden, a lawyer who grew up at Wind River, agrees.  If they're going to clear his name, John and Vicky need to find out who really killed Harvey—and why.  Their investigation leads in unexpected directions, putting the duo in danger from someone who's desperate to keep old secrets buried.  Can they expose the murderer and free Anthony without becoming the next victims of a cold-blooded killer?

Back in the Dark Ages before I started reviewing books on this blog, I read the first few installments in Margaret Coel's Father John O'Malley mystery series.  I enjoyed learning about Arapaho culture, following the developing relationship between John and Vicky, and reading mysteries that were engaging without being graphic.  When I needed a book set in Wyoming for the Literary Escapes Reading Challenge, I decided to revisit the series.  While I still appreciated the things that first drew me to the series, this time around I found its first installment, The Eagle Catcher, not quite as engrossing or compelling as I did the first time I read it.  John and Vicky are both likable characters, but they're so underdeveloped that neither comes off as very unique or exciting.  The supporting cast is the same, with so many similar people that they all ran together for me.  Plotwise, The Eagle Catcher is predictable, with no real twists to keep it interesting.  In a word: boring.  The story is slow and dull.  I'm not saying this series opener is a terrible read; it's not.  It's just a bit of a slog, which disappointed me because I wanted to love it as much as I did the first time I read it.  Bummer.

(Readalikes:  Coel's books have been compared to those by Tony Hillerman, although I don't know how apt the comparison is since I've never read Hillerman.)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (no F-bombs), violence, and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

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Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson

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The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain



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