The Ghost Walker - Margaret Coel

I have to say, this is the first book I've read that's made me want to go put my coat on!  

Father John is the priest on at St. Francis parish on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming and this book is set in the middle of winter.  We start out with Father John having car problems in the middle of a blizzard and it just seems to get colder from there.  When he gets out of the car to find help, he instead finds a dead body in a ditch.  By the time he can get the police to the site, the body is gone.  No one has been reported missing on the reservation so they don't even know who it was, much less how or why he was killed. The title refers to the Arapaho belief that because the body isn't buried properly, it's ghost is now haunting the area. Father John is determined to find out who the body is as well as why the person was killed and dumped.  

Along the way Father John, with his friend Vicky Holden, has to deal with the specter of his mission being closed, drugs and alcohol on the reservation, poverty and lack of jobs among the Arapaho and many other difficult but realistic issues.  The social issues were handled as part of the story and I never felt like I was having someone's views forced on me. The mystery becomes clear as the story progresses and you'll probably figure it out before the end of the book but not a long way before the end.  I liked this book a lot and will enjoy finding more of the series to read.

This author and series will inevitably draw comparisons with Tony Hillerman and rightly so as he was the inspiration for Margaret Coel to start writing from what I've been told.  The two writers have quite different styles, however.  I think that Hillerman focuses directly on the culture of the Navajo more while Coel weaves the culture into the story.  I would say that Hillerman writes Navajo stories that are mysteries while Coel writes mysteries that happen to be Arapaho. I'm a fan of both writers and both series.