Thursday, April 1, 2010

Looking for a Good Mystery? Avoid This One

Wild Indigo, by Sandi Ault

If you are looking for a mystery/thriller with a Native American slant and even an intriguing dose of mysticism, run, don't walk, away from this volume and pick up something by Peter Bowen or Kirk Mitchell. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of books I have put aside without finishing, and this is one of them.

I can even pinpoint the exact moment when I came to this unhappy conclusion (no spoiler): The heroine, Jamaica Wild, explains that the reason she does not have blinds on the windows of her home is because she wants to be able to see the surrounding mountains through them.

Ms. Wild's lack of awareness that blinds may be opened to view objects through their accompanying windows will come as no surprise to anyone who has read this far. Ms. Wild is dumb as a stump. And not entertainingly so. She never says anything interesting, unexpected, witty, or suggestive that she is capable of solving the mystery. She is weirdly forgetful and unable to interpret some pretty obvious circumstances.

Indeed, the entire pueblo is a pretty dull place  None of the other characters, with the possible exception of Momma Anna, who tends to speak in sentences of no more than five words, ever says anything that suggests you'd like to be seated next to him or her at dinner.

But a mystery with a stiff central character (even one who is in every scene, and is telling the story) can be redeemed by good writing. Alas. The writing is writing-class poor. The book seems not to have had an editor's care. From page 5: "I looked through the shattered windshield, the scene beyond it in fragments like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, the green of the forest land rising to the blue and purple shoulders of the Rocky Mountains, the high peaks watching like guardians over the normally peaceful, ancient village of Tanoah Pueblo." Multiply this cliched, redundant, unlikely, dull, and plot-stopping level of irrelevant detail by several hundred pages, and you can put away the Ambien.

Don't get me started on the wolf.

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