The Drowning Man by Margaret Coel  » Books  »
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  • I found The Drowning Man to be an interesting, believable and timely book
  • I like the relationship between Vickie and Father John
  • Unfortunately this increased interest has also brought with it the desire of some people to own parts of these cultures
  • I've really enjoyed the last several of the Father John-Vickie Holden series
  • I'm happy to rate The Drowning Man as a 94% or a good solid A

    • by tfedge
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      “The Drowning Man” is the twelfth book in the Father John O’Malley-Vickie Holden mystery series. I found “The Drowning Man” to be an interesting, believable and timely book. The Wind River Reservation has been attacked. In a remote canyon where the Ancients had created petroglyphs in the sheer cliffs that formed the canyon. These were considered to be sacred by the Arapaho and Shoshone people who live on the reservation. Recently there has been evidence of grave robbing and illegal digging in these areas. When “The Drowning Man” opens it is discovered that “The Drowning Man,” a particularly beautiful and respected petroglyphs has been stolen. Father John is approached with a demand for $250,000 as ransom for the return of the petroglyph or it will be sold to the highest bidder and lost forever to the Arapaho and Shoshone people.

      Soon after “The Drowning Man” is stolen Arapaho Elder Amos Walking Bear visits Vickie at her law office. He carries a copy of the newspaper article with him as proof of the innocence of his grandson Travis Birdsong. Birdsong is serving time in prison for voluntary manslaughter. He had been charged for the murder of his friend and partner Raymond Trueblood. The two were suspected of having stolen a petroglyph years earlier and have demanded ransom from the tribes for its return. The state claimed the two had a falling out that lead to the murder. Vickie is not as convinced


      of Birdsong’s innocence as Amos Walking Bear, but she believes it is her duty to honor the wishes of the Elder and agrees to look into the case. This promise brings her into conflict with her law partner and lover, Lakota Indian, Adam Lone Eagle. Lone Eagle believes it is a waste of time for Vickie to work on small cases that will not benefit the firm. This is an ongoing dispute between the two that often threatens to end their professional and personal relationship but so far has failed to do so. In “The Drowning Man” the more important case, according to Lone Eagle, is to fight a Bureau of Land Management decision to allow a logging company to build a road through the sacred canyon to access public timber nearby.

      When Vickie begins investigate the Birdsong case and Father John begins looking for the man who is trying to extort money from the tribe their paths meet and quickly become entangled. Both receive threats of violence. Threats come not only from outsiders but from within the tribal leadership.

      I like the relationship between Vickie and Father John. I like them as individuals. Father John is a Jesuit priest who came to the Wind River Reservation about eight years prior to “The Drowning Man.” At the time he was fresh out of rehab for his alcoholism and it was thought it would be a good temporary assignment for him. The ...


      • priest he came to assist warned him that the place and the people could affect him deeply and become an important part of his life. At the time Father John dismissed this but soon realized this was the case. Over time Father John found himself attracted to Vickie Holden, an Arapaho woman who had left her family and the reservation in search of a life and a career away from her abusive husband. When she returned she found she was an outsider. As she tried to make her way back into the tribe she met Father John and turned to him for help and comfort. She too became attracted. This mutual attraction provides a tension that works well throughout the series. I think it’s clear that neither person will act on their feelings, but the possibility of it is interesting.

        Margaret Coel and other writers such as James D. Doss, the Thurlos, and Tony Hillerman have created a popular fiction genre writing about the reservations in the American Southwest and nearby areas. Unfortunately this increased interest has also brought with it the desire of some people to “own” parts of these cultures. Consequently these areas are not only faced with the threat of commercial development and exploitation, they are threatened with people who have more money than respect and good sense who want to possess Native American artifacts. A look at the term “Indian relics” on Ebay will give you an

        idea how much interest there is. It is not necessarily illegal to own these relics, but relics that were obtained through illegal means must be returned to the appropriate people. If owning these things interest you make sure you do properly diligence to make sure you are buying legally obtained relics with a legitimate provenance.

        I particularly like the cover of “The Drowning Man.” I’m afraid I am the kind of person who doesn’t judge a book by its cover because I frequently fail to notice the cover. However with Margaret Coel’s books I try to make an effort to look at the cover. The covers are beautiful and thought provoking. I particularly like the cover of “The Drowning Man.”

        The Native American mystery genre is becoming more popular all the time. Started by Tony Hillerman with his series featuring Navaho policemen Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee these books provide not only the mystery interest that mystery lovers crave, but I find that it provides me with anthropological, historical, and geographic information as well. At times I feel like I’m reading a travel book when I read about the lands these detectives work in. For information about books in this genre, look at the website, “If you like Tony Hillerman, try these mystery authors”.

        I’ve really enjoyed the last several of the Father John-Vickie Holden series. I’m happy to rate “The Drowning Man” as a 94% or a good solid A.




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    The review was published as it's written by reviewer in January, 2008. The reviewer certified that no compensation was received from the reviewed item producer, trademark owner or any other institution, related with the item reviewed. The site is not responsible for the mistakes made. 171401280500131/k2311a0114/1.14.08
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