2021: #77 – Winter Counts (David Heska Wanbli Weiden)
Published by Ecco on August 25, 2020
Genres: crime, suspense thriller
A groundbreaking thriller about a vigilante on a Native American reservation who embarks on a dangerous mission to track down the source of a heroin influx.
Virgil Wounded Horse is the local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. When justice is denied by the American legal system or the tribal council, Virgil is hired to deliver his own punishment, the kind that’s hard to forget. But when heroin makes its way into the reservation and finds Virgil’s nephew, his vigilantism suddenly becomes personal. He enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend and sets out to learn where the drugs are coming from, and how to make them stop.
They follow a lead to Denver and find that drug cartels are rapidly expanding and forming new and terrifying alliances. And back on the reservation, a new tribal council initiative raises uncomfortable questions about money and power. As Virgil starts to link the pieces together, he must face his own demons and reclaim his Native identity. He realizes that being a Native American in the twenty-first century comes at an incredible cost.
Virgil is a guy who gets by by doing odd jobs for people, usually involving violence. His latest job, which he takes reluctantly due to it coming from his ex-girlfriend’s father (a tribal leader), is to track down the guy who is bringing drugs onto the Reservation and “convince” him to stop. But when his nephew, who is under his care, unexpectedly overdoses on heroin, this mission becomes much more personal than Virgil expected.
I really enjoyed this debut novel and the peek it gives into life on a Reservation. Weiden expertly weaves issues that Native Americans face into this story of violence and revenge but also gives us beautiful portrayals of the Lakota culture.
Back in the time before Columbus, there were only Indians here, no skyscrapers, no automobiles, no streets. Of course, we didn’t use the words Indian or Native American then; we were just people. We didn’t know we were supposedly drunks or lazy or savages. I wondered what it was like to live without that weight on your shoulders, the weight of the murdered ancestors, the stolen land, the abused children, the burden every Native person carries.
This book is well worth the time.
I read this for the following reading challenges:
- 52 Book Club 2021 Challenge — a book with an endorsement by a famous author on the cover
- “This is a medium paced read that is marketed as a thriller however, I didn’t really see it as such. This reads more like Crime Fiction that covers a lot of the real life issues plaguing Native American reservations. It’s a dark and heavy read with tons of content warnings that I’ll try to cover down below. I found myself unable to walk away from this story for too long and ended up finishing it in just about one sitting.” — Lair of Books
- “With beautiful, visually descriptive prose, action filled scenes, strong emotional undertones and a truly thought provoking narrative, this is most definitely recommended. a truly stunning read.” — Jen Med’s Book Reviews
- “Why should you read this book? If you enjoy energy driven and thrilling novels about Native American vigilantes out for revenge and self-discovery, this is the book for you.” — Elizabeth Reads Books