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Sweetgrass and Desert Sage


Tony Hillerman may have popularized the field of mysteries featuring Native American sleuths, with his Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn novels, but he is hardly the only author writing in this increasingly diverse subgenre. This booklist highlights recent series in the Lincoln City Libraries’ fiction collection in this category, primarily focusing on books published from the 1980s to the present, but with a few prominent older titles thrown in for good measure. All of the following titles which are hotlinked are owned by the library system, and clicking on the hotlink will take you to that title’s entry in our on-line catalog, where you can find more information about the book, including reviews and brief plot descriptions for many titles. This is by no means intended to be an exhaustive list, but is representative of the many mystery novels featuring Native American Indian protagonists.

indiankillerSherman Alexie (1966-  )

Indian Killer (1998) – standalone

fallfromgraceWayne Arthurson

Leo Desroches, Cree, investigative reporter
Fall From Grace (2011)
A Killing Winter (2012)
Summer of Death (2016)

wildpenanceSandi Ault

Jamaica Wild, Pueblo nations, Bureau of Land Management officer
Wild Indigo (2007)
Wild Inferno (2008)
Wild Sorrow (2009)
Wild Penance (2010)
Wild Justice (2014) short story/novella

Peter Bowen

Gabriel DuPre, Metis, amateur detective
Coyote Wind (1994)
Specimen Song (1995)
Wolf, No Wolf (1996)
Notches (1997)
Thunder Horse (1998)
Long Son (1999)
The Stick Game (2000)
Cruzatte and Maria (2001)
Ash Child (2002)
Badlands (2003)
The Tumbler (2004)
Stewball (2006)
Nails (2006)
Bitter Creek (2015)
Solus (2018)

lastsongdogsSinclair Browning (1946-  )

Trade Ellis, half Apache private investigator
Last Song Dogs (1999)
The Sporting Club (2000)
Rode Hard, Put Away Dead (2000)
Crack Shot (2002)
Traggedy Ann (2003)

eaglecatcherMargaret Coel (1937-  )

Vicky Holden, an Arapaho lawyer
The Eagle Catcher (1995)
The Ghost Walker (1996)
The Dream Stalker (1997)
The Story Teller (1998)
The Lost Bird (1999)
The Spirit Woman (2000)
The Thunder Keeper (2001)
The Shadow Dancer (2002)
Killing Raven (2003)
Wife of Moon (2004)
Eye of the Wolf (2005)
The Drowning Man (2006)
The Girl With Braided Hair (2007)
Silent Spirit (2009)
The Spider’s Web (2010)
Buffalo Bill’s Dead Now (2012)
Killing Custer (2013)
Night of the White Buffalo (2014)
The Man Who Fell From the Sky (2015)
Winter’s Child (2016)

fallingdownDavid Cole

Laura Winslow, Hopi detective
Butterfly Lost (2000)
The Killing Maze (2001)
Stalking Moon (2002)
Scorpion Rain (2002)
Dragonfly Bones (2003)
Shadow Play (2004)
Falling Down (2005)

Cecil Dawkins (1927-  )

Ginevra Prettifeld, part-Sioux, art museum assistant director
The Santa Fe Rembrandt (1993)
Rare Earth (1995)

shamansgameJames D. Doss (1939-2012)

Charlie Moon, Ute tribal policeman
The Shaman Sings (1994)
The Shaman Laughs (1995)
The Shaman’s Bones (1997)
The Shaman’s Game (1998)
The Night Visitor (1999)
Grandmother Spider (2001)
White Shell Woman (2002)
Dead Soul (2003)
Witch’s Tongue (2004)
Shadow Man (2005)
Stone Butterfly (2006)
Three Sisters (2007)
Snake Dreams (2008)
The Widow’s Revenge (2009)
A Dead Man’s Tale (2010)
Coffin Man (2011)
The Old Grey Wolf (2012)

relentlessBrian Garfield (1939-  )

Sam Watchman, Navajo Arizona state trooper
Relentless (1972)
Threepersons Hunt (2000)

visitantKathleen O’Neal Gear (1954-  ) and W. Michael Gear (1955-  )

ancient Anasazi mysteries featuring archeologist Dusty Stewart
The Visitant (1999)
The Summoning God (2000)
Bone Walker (2001)

Christine Gentry (1954-  )

Ansel Phoenix, half-Blackfoot, paleontologist
Mesozoic Murder (2003)
Carnosaur Crimes (2005)

shadowcatcherMicah S. Hackler (1950-  )

Gabe Hanna, Navajo/Apache deputy sheriff
Legend of the Dead (1995)
Coyote Returns (1996)
The Dark Canyon (1997)
The Shadow Catcher (1997)

sevenblackstonesJean Hager (1932-  )

Mitch Bushyhead, Chief of Police, Oklahoma Cherokee
Grandfather Medicine (1989)
Night Walker (1990)
Ghostland (1992)
The Fire Carrier (1996)
Masked Dancers (1998)
Molly BearPaw, tribal investigator, Oklahoma Cherokee
Ravenmocker (1992)
The Redbird’s Cry (1994)
Seven Black Stones (1995)
The Spirit Caller (1997)

landofechoesDaniel Hecht

Cree Black, parapsychologist/detective
City of Masks (2003)
Land of Echoes (2004)
Bones of the Barbary Coast (2006)
(other titles available through Interlibrary Loan)

spiderwomansdaughterAnne Hillerman (continuing her father Tony Hillerman’s series)

Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, Navajo police, with Bernadette Manuelito
Spider Woman’s Daughter (2013)
Rock With Wings (2015)
Song of the Lion (2017)
Cave of Bones (2018)
The Tale Teller (2019)

blessingwayTony Hillerman (1925-2008)

Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn, Navajo police
The Blessing Way (1970)
Dance Hall of the Dead (1973)
Listening Woman (1978)
People of the Darkness (1980)
Dark Wind (1982)
Ghost Way (1984)
Skinwalkers (1986)
A Thief of Time (1988)
Talking God (1989)
Coyote Waits (1990)
Sacred Clowns (1993)
The Fallen Man (1996)
The First Eagle (1998)
Hunting Badger (1999)
The Wailing Wind (2002)
The Sinister Pig (2003)
Skeleton Man (2004)
Shape Shifter (2006)

snakeeyesRichard Hoyt (1941-  )

John Denson P.I. series — Denson’s partner, Willie Prettybird, is a Shaman of the Cowlitz tribe
Decoys (1980)
Thirty for a Harry (1981)
The Siskiyou (1983)
Fish Story (1985)
Whoo? (1991)
Bigfoot (1993)
Snake Eyes (1995)
The Weatherman’s Daughter (2003)
Pony Girls (2004)
Jake Hipp/Willow Blackwing series — Willow claims to be Raven, a shapeshifting trickster who has lost her powers
Crow’s Mind (2013)

dontthinktwiceWayne Douglas Johnson

Paul Two Persons, Chippewa, fishing guide/amateur detective
Don’t Think Twice (1999)
Six Crooked Highways (2000)

whiteskyblackiceStan Jones (1947-  )

Nathan Active, Eskimo state trooper
White Sky, Black Ice (1999)
Shaman Pass (2003)
Frozen Sun (2008)
Village of the Ghost Bears (2009)
Tundra Kill (2016)
The Big Empty (2018) (with Patricia Watts)

ironlakeWilliam Kent Krueger (1950-  )

Cork O’Connor, a half-Anishinaabe private investigator
Iron Lake (1998)
Boundary Waters (1999)
Purgatory Ridge (2001)
Blood Hollow (2004)
Mercy Falls (2005)
Copper River (2006)
Thunder Bay (2007)
Red Knife (2008)
Heaven’s Keep (2009)
Vermillion Drift (2010)
Northwest Angle (2011)
Trickster’s Point (2012)
Tamarack County (2013)
Windigo Island (2014)
Manitou Canyon (2016)
Sulfur Springs (2017)
Desolation Mountain (2018)

sacredgroundMercedes Lackey (1950-  )

Jennifer Tall Deer, Osage private investigator
Sacred Ground (1995)

elementsofakillChristopher Lane

Ray Attla, Inupiat Eskimo detective
Elements of a Kill (1998)
Season of Death (1998)
A Shroud of Midnight Sun (2000)
Silent as the Hunter (2001)
A Deadly Quiet (2001)

whiteheatM.J. McGrath (a.k.a. Mel McGrath)

Edie Kiglatuk, Inuit, expert hunter and guide
White Heat (2011)
The Boy in the Snow (2012)
The Bone Seeker (2014)
Novella eBooks:
Edie Kiglatuk’s Christmas (2012)
Edie Kiglatuk’s Christmas (2013)

murdermedlodgeMardi Oakley Medawar

Tay-Bodal, Kiowa healer, set in 1870s
Death of Rainy Mountain (1996)
Witch of the Palo Duro (1997)
Murder at Medicine Lodge (1999)
The Ft. Larned Incident (2000)
Police Chief David Lameraux and Karen Charboneau, Chippewa tracker
People of the Whistling Waters (1993)
Remembering the Osage Kid (1997)
The Misty Hills of Home (1998)
Murder on the Red Cliff Rez (2002)

tenoclockscholarJohn Miles

Johnelle “Johnnie” Baker, Choctaw sheriff
Tenoclock Scholar (1995)

crydanceKirk Mitchell (1050-  )

Emmett Quanah Parker, Comanche, tribal investigator
Cry Dance (1999)
Spirit Sickness (2000)
Ancient Ones (2001)
Sky Woman Falling (2003)
Dance of the Thunder Dogs (2004)

listentothesilenceMarcia Muller (1944-  )

Sharon McCone series — 34 volumes since 1977. McCone finds out she is full-blooded Shoshone in #20 in 2000, private investigator
#20 Listen to the Silence (2000) and subsequent volumes…

Meg O’Brien (???-2008)

A Deep and Dreamless Sleep (1996) (stand-alone novel)

sharpestsightLouis Owens (1948-2002)

The Sharpest Sight (1992) (Mundo Morales, Choctaw, police officer)
Bone Game (1994) (Cole McCurtain, Choctaw, teacher – sequel to The Sharpest Sight)
Nightland (1996) (Will Strike/Billy Keene, Cherokee)
Dark River (1999) (E-book edition only)

lethalpartnerJake Page (1936-  )

Mo Bowdre, a blind Hopi sculptor
The Stolen Gods (1993)
The Deadly Canyon (1994)
The Knotted Strings (1995)
The Lethal Partner (1996)
A Certain Malice (1998)

danceforthedeadThomas Perry (1947-  )

Jane Whitefield, a Seneca guide, helps crime victims disappear
Vanishing Act (1994)
Dance for the Dead (1996)
Shadow Woman (1997)
Face-Changers (1998)
Blood Money (1999)
Runner (2009)
Poison Flower (2012)
A String of Beads (2014)

badmedicineRonald B. Querry

medical thrillers with different characters in each novel
Death of Bernadette Lefthand (1993)
Bad Medicine (1998)

bloodautumnWilliam Sanders (1942-  )

Taggart Roper, Cherokee, part-time writer, part-time private investigator
The Next Victim (1993)
A Death on 66 (1994)
Blood Autumn (1995)

truthofallthingsKieran Shields

Archie Lean and Perceval Grey, Grey is Abenaki, Lean is Deputy Marshal, Grey is criminologist
The Truth of All Things (2012)
A Study in Revenge (2013)

pumpkinseedmassacreSusan Slater

Ben Pecos, Native American psychologist, grew up as a Pueblo
The Pumpkin Seed Massacre (1999)
Yellow Lies (2000)
Thunderbird (2002)
A Way to the Manger (2017) (stand-alone novella)
Fire Dancer (2018)

colddayformurderDana Stabenow (1952-  )

Kate Shugak, Aleut Indian investigator
A Cold Day for Murder (1992)
A Fatal Thaw (1993)
Dead in the Water (1993)
A Cold-Blooded Business (1994)
Play With Fire (1995)
Blood Will Tell (1996)
Breakup (1997)
Killing Grounds (1998)
Hunter’s Moon (1999)
Midnight Come Again (2000)
The Singing of the Dead (2001)
A Fine and Bitter Snow (2002)
Grave Denied (2003)
A Taint in the Blood (2004)
A Deeper Sleep (2007)
Whisper to the Blood (2009)
A Night Too Dark (2010)
Though Not Dead (2011)
Restless in the Grave (2012)
Bad Blood (2013)
Less Than a Treason (2017)

Garth Stein (1964-  )

Raven Stole the Moon (1998) (stand-alone novel)

listeningonesNaomi M. Stokes

M. Jordan Tidewater, Quinault, tribal sheriff
The Tree People (1995)
The Listening Ones (1997)

coldwaterburningJohn Straley

Cecil Younger, a Tlingit private investigator
The Woman Who Married a Bear (1992)
The Curious Eat Themselves (1993)
The Music of What Happens (1996)
Death and the Language of Happiness (1997)
The Angels Will Not Care (1998)
Cold Water Burning (2001)
Baby’s First Felony (2018)

purificationceremonyMark T. Sullivan (1958-  )

The Purification Ceremony (1997)
Ghost Dance (1999)

trackingbearAimee Thurlo (1951-2014) with David Thurlo

Ella Clah, Navajo, FBI agent
Blackening Song (1995)
Death Walker (1996)
Bad Medicine (1997)
Enemy Way (1998)
Shooting Chant (2000)
Red Mesa (2001)
Changing Woman (2002)
Tracking Bear (2003)
Plant Them Deep (2003)
Wind Spirit (2004)
White Thunder (2005)
Mourning Dove (2006)
Turquoise Girl (2007)
Coyote’s Wife (2008)
Earthway (2009)
Never-Ending-Snake (2010)
Black Thunder (2011)
Ghost Medicine (2013)

highcountrymurderJ.F. Trainor

Angela Biwaban, Anishinabe/Chippewa, amateur detective
Dynamite Pass (1993)
Target for Murder (1993)
Corona Blue (1994)
Whiskey Jack (1994)
High Country Murder (1995)

death along the spirit roadC.M. Wendelboe

Manny Tanno, Oglala Sioux, FBI
Death Along the Spirit Road (2011)
Death Where the Bad Rocks Live (2012)
Death on the Greasy Grass (2013)

Robert Westbrook (1945-  )

Howard Moon Deer, Lakota Sioux, graduate student studying culinary psycho-sociology, paired with a blind ex-San Francisco police officer
Ghost Dancer (1998)
Warrior Circle (1999)
Red Moon (2000)
Ancient Enemy (2001)

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (1942-  )

Charlie Moon/Ogilvie, Tallant & Moon – Charlie Moon is a Native American attorney, practicing in San Francisco
Bad Medicine (a.k.a. Ogilvie, Tallant & Moon) (1976)
False Notes (a.k.a. Music When Sweet Voices Die) (1979)
Poisonous Fruit (a.k.a. Poison Fruit) (1991)
Dead Mice (a.k.a. Cat’s Claw) (1992)

shamansknifeScott Young (1918-2005)

Matthew Kitologitak, Inuk/Inuit member of the Canadian Mounties
Murder in a Cold Climate (1988)
The Shaman’s Knife (1993)

Also: Check out this Chronological Checklist of Native American Detectives compiled by Steve Lewis at — last updated in 2005.

Booklist originally created December 2005 rs | adapted for the web December 2005 sdc | last updated July 2018 sdc