Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cozy Mystery Blog Tour: Author Guest Post, Review & Giveaway: Killing Custer (Wind River Reservation #17) by Margaret Coel

The whole town of Lander has turned out for the big parade celebrating the start of the new rodeo season. The main spectacle this year is the appearance of Colonel Edward Garrett—a spot-on impersonator of General George Armstrong Custer—and a troop of men acting as the ill-fated Seventh Cavalry.

The problem is they are being followed by a group of Arapaho warriors from the Wind River Reservation, who proceed to encircle Garrett and his men in a "dare ride" just to remind them exactly who won the Battle of the Little Bighorn. But when the ride is over, history seems to have repeated itself: Garrett is dead in the street with a bullet hole in his chest.

No one is sure what happened, but public sentiment quickly turns against the Arapaho—and the prime suspect is Colin Morningside, a descendant of Crazy Horse. When a local attorney connected to Morningside disappears, the accusations only grow stronger.

Father John O’Malley knows in his heart the Arapaho are not guilty. And Vicky Holden finds herself professionally and personally compromised from getting involved. But what begins as a murder soon reveals itself as a conspiracy that neither Father John nor Vicky could have foreseen. And someone wants to ensure that the truth they discover will die with them. 

Opinions of Custer? Take Your Choice
By Margaret Coel
Author of Killing Custer and the Wind River Mysteries

"There aren't enough Indians in the world to defeat the Seventh Cavalry."  So said General George Armstrong Custer before leading his troops to their deaths at the Battle of the Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876.  Even in death, the boy general who, according to his fans, practically won the Battle of Gettysburg single-handedly, remains as outrageous, controversial, impetuous, and divisive as he was in life.  There are countless opinions on Custer, and since Killing Custer was published, I have heard them all.  Readers call him a true, brave American hero, a megalomaniacal, self-serving fool and everything in between.  

My purpose in writing Killing Custer was not to settle historical controversies.  My ambitions were modest.  I wanted to write an entertaining mystery about the way the past - in this case, Custer's actions on the plains - influences the present.  What interested me were the opinion about Custer that I had heard over the years from Arapaho friends on the Wind River Reservation.  Only a few Arapahos fought at the Little Bighorn, but Custer's actions had impacted all of the Plains Indians.  Like the other tribes, Arapahos have never forgotten him.  

Eight years before the battle, the Seventh Cavalry had atacked a village of Cheyennes on the Washita River in present-day Oklahoma.  The village was under Chief Black Kettle, a noted peace chief.  Not far away was a camp of hostile Cheyennes with armed warriors.  Had Custer attacked that camp, he would have gotten the fight of his life and might not have survived to go on to the Little Bighorn.  Instead he waded into a peaceful village.  Afterward, he gathered up the surviving women and allowed his men to take their choice.  He chose the most beautiful woman, Monahsetah, for himself.  When she became pregnant, he sent her back to the Cheyennes.  Did he give her a horse?  Send her out onto the plains by herself?  Hope she would stumble upon a village?  Not care whether she did?  No one knows.  But the Indians say that she bore a son, called Yellow Hair, and that today, Custer's descendants are among the Cheyennes.  

After Washita, the opinion of the Plains Indians hardened against Custer as he continued to lead expeditions and attack villages.  The story I heard is that the Cheyennes "put their pipes out on Custer's heels."  History books contain different accounts of this story, but my Arapaho friends say it meant that, from Washita on, the Cheyennes followed Custer across the plains.  Waiting.  Waiting.  The waiting ended on a wind-swept hill above the Little Bighorn river.  Custer was under orders to meet up with other troops before launching an attack against the Indians, orders he chose to ignore.  The camp in the river valley was, said one scout, "the biggest bunch of Indians he had ever seen," certain to have a couple of thousand warriors.  After dividing his command, Custer had only 210 men under his immediate command.  He attacked.  

What followed was mayhem, disaster, death and finally, no doubt, the same eerie sound of the wind swishing the tall grass that suffuses the site today.  Custer and his men lay dead.  The Indian women swarmed over the hillside.  All the pent up fury, anger and sorrow over the lost relatives at Washita, the lost lands, the lost ways of the ancestors, the women released on the bodies of the dead cavalry troops.  

There was no victory celebration that night.  Only the pitiful keening of the women as they packed up what was left of the camp and moved off.  The keening could be heard over a great distance, the Indians say.  All the tribes - Cheyenne, Sioux, Arapaho - knew they had won a victory, but they had lost a war.  

Margaret Coel is the New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of the acclaimed novels featuring Father John O'Malley and Vicky Holden, as well as several works of nonfiction. Originally a historian by trade, she is considered an expert on the Arapaho Indians.

This series never ceases to amaze me.  Ms. Coel is a brilliant storyteller with an amazing ability to weave the past with the present.  In Killing Custer, the sweet justice that the Plains Indians felt when Custer died is brought to the forefront when a reenactment of that historical day is brought to life all over again.  And through a crazy series of events, Father John O'Malley and Vicky Holden find themselves in the middle of a conspiratorial murder investigation unlike anything they've ever seen before!  

It's a thrilling ride, with twists and turns, and one heck of a fantastic murder mystery!  Margaret Coel is a master at what she does, and it shows with her historical knowledge of the Arapaho Indians.  She brings these people to life with her unique story telling and her creative literary talent.  I just love this book and series, and hope that others will embark on the incredible journey of the Wind River Reservation books.  

Rating: 5 stars 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All conclusions reached are my own. 

Thanks to the awesome ladies at Penguin, I have 1 paperback copy of Killing Custer by Margaret Coel to give away to one of my lucky readers!  Just enter the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win, and be sure to keep checking back for more awesome giveaways!  

a Rafflecopter giveaway


skkorman said...

I have not as yet read anything by this author but this book and the series sound intriguing—thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of Killing Custer!

skkorman AT bellsouth DOT net

holdenj said...

I don't know much about Custer beyond what's in history books. I think her knowledge of the Plains Indians will be fascinating to learn about.

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