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Indian Killer Paperback – July 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews Review

Native American Sherman Alexie's new novel is a departure in tone from his lyrical and funny earlier work, which include The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and Reservation Blues. The main character is an Indian serial killer who incites racial tension by murdering whites in retribution for his people's history. The killer leaves clear signs of his motives by scalping his victims, and leaving feathers as gestures of Indian defiance. The killer is a conflicted creation--raised by loving white parents, but twisted by loss of his identity as an Indian. Alexie layers the story with complications and ancillary characters, from a rabid talk show host, to vengeance seeking whites, to liberals who find their patronizing espousal of Indian causes no longer so easy. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

In a startling departure from his earlier, more lyrical fiction, Native American novelist Alexie (Reservation Blues) weighs in with a racially charged literary thriller. Seattle is rife with racial tension as the city is terrorized by a serial murderer nicknamed "Indian Killer" because the victims, all white, are scalped and their bodies topped with a pair of white owl feathers. At the center of the novel stands the mentally disintegrating John Smith, a 6'6" Native American ignorant of his tribal roots because he was adopted and raised by white parents. As the city's racial divide increases, Marie Polatkin, a combative Spokane activist and scholarship student, organizes demonstrations and distributes sandwiches and sedition to homeless Indians, while reactionary shock-jock Truck Schultz rails on the air against casinos on reservations. Three white men with masks and baseball bats (compatriots of a murdered University of Washington student) prowl the downtown area beating any Native American they find; a trio of Indians similarly beat and knife a white boy. Through it all float a number of psychological half-breeds, among them a mystery writer who's an Indian wannabe and a buffoonish white professor of Native American literature who is forced to re-evaluate his qualifications. Over the last few years, Alexie, who is Spokane/Coeur d'Alene, has built a reputation as the next great Native American writer. This novel bolsters that contention. It displays a brilliant eye for telling detail, as well as startling control, as Alexie flips points of view among a wide array of characters without ever seeming to resort to contrivance. The narrative voice can sound detached and affectless, and some readers will miss the lyricism and humor of the author's earlier work, but this novel offers abundant evidence of a most promising talent extending its range. 75,000 first printing; $75,000 ad/promo; author tour; rights: Nancy Stauffer.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (July 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802143571
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802143570
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #194,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Yes, I read Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie and loved it.
The book also suffered from Alexie going so far as to simply explain characters like Truck as a parallel to Limbaugh.
Jeffrey Alexander
It's a compelling thriller that keeps you guessing to the very end.
Wolf Eyes

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 9, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Sherman Alexie delivers again, coming through this time with a brilliant look at prejudice, hatred, fear, community and lack of community. Although the blurb and the reviews of others on this list seem to suggest the killer's identity, don't believe it. The killer is carefully constructed so that the reader has no clue as to the killer's gender, age, tribal affiliation -- in fact, the killer could just as well be white, since scalping was a practice that originated with European traders, rather than with Native tribes. Alexie blurs the killer's identity on purpose -- perhaps to reveal our own prejudices. If you believe only Indians can scalp, then you will believe the killer is an Indian. If you believe all races are capable of equal savagery against each other, then the killer could be anyone. Read this book and test your own prejudices -- racial, sexual, and sociological prejudices. You may surprised to find out something about yourself as well as about Alexie's gift with words. My review may make INDIAN KILLER sound like a social or political manifesto, but more than anything else, the novel is a vibrantly written murder mystery, a real, honest-to-God page-turner. You won't be able to put it down
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By DMD on September 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
But excellent for book group discussions. A friend of mine scared me away from Indian Killer for months because he was so put off by Alexie's "explosive anger and hatred." I put the book on the shelf until I felt I could take the heat, but my book group made the decision for me. Once started, I couldn't put it down . . . I finished the book in three days.
First let me start with a warning: Alexie IS angry--he is spitting-bullets-pissed-off-angry--and this is not an easy book to read. However, Alexie is also a wonderful writer who delights in knocking the reader out of his/her comfort zone and probing sharply at his/her sense of the ironic. To me the book seethes more than it explodes--it penetrates the veneer of political correctness and exposes the fear, confusion, and rage that boils beneath the surface.
A challenging and powerful read that stays with you, Indian Killer pushes buttons--just look at the customer reviews. Most reviews speculate who the killer is, and why the killer exists, but to Alexie, I think it is less important who the Indian Killer is, than what s/he represents. The killer is a physical manifestation of racism itself--representing rage, frustration, confusion, but most of all fear. Indian Killer is a book that inspires and terrifies, is violent and righteous, is brave and despicable, and challenges the reader to reevaluate traditional notions of black and white, right and wrong. Read it with a book group and watch the speculations fly.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Roseanne E. Freese on October 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
Alexie is a riveting writer who can make the heart pound and the breath freeze. He's also refreshingingly honest about the disconnect between the violence and suffering and soul-destroying abandonment forced upon First Nations people and the absence of recognition of that destruction by its perpetrators. As a mystery, it's a terrific read, a Dean Koontz or Steven King' telling of the wicked gone awry.

As a well-rounded retelling of what goes on inside people's hearts -- and how they run or wallow in their fears -- it's more like a gothic murder mystery dressed up in Indian clothes. If you don't know any of the history or the people, it's fascinating reading. But once you've finished the book, you realize, excepting the African American characters, everyone body else is one-dimensional -- even if exotic. All the "wannabee Indians" are reduced to being hypocrites or fools. Why must this be? Go into Asian or French studies, and one gains respect as a sinologist or diplomat. Similarly, the book is full of white boys and Indian boys who's only emotion is getting revenge. Yawn.

However, if you do read the work as an expose of how little we do know of the past and what masquerades as authority, the work is powerful. First off, we're tremendously ignorant about our own history. The word redskins became prominent in the 19th century because European Americans no longer could tell the First Nations apart. Take a 1,000 books on First Nations and 980 of them are the same old coffee table book on "Indians of North America" just getting recycled. Of the 20 remaining titles, 15 may provide information at the tribal level, and only 1 will be an actual biography. That leaves only 4 titles that were written by people who knew the languages.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Wolf Eyes on November 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
Some jump on Alexie, but he writes as he sees it - through the eyes of one who has lived on America's Indian Reservations. He writes what he knows about, as do most great writers and you can't fault him for forcefullness. In Alesie's case, it's about being an American Indian living on a reservation and then leaving and entering the land of 'white'. He's felt the prejudments of a nation and watched those who think it's "cool" to wear feathers and smoke their stash in scared pipes. Our reservations are homes for the poorest of the poor in America, where life is one unprecedented struggle after another. It's a lifetime of trying to find your way and trying to fit in somewhere. Those who find his words strong and insultive haven't emerged from a history that lead a nation to turn against and displace all FIRST PEOPLES. A nation who did its' best to beat the Indian spirit into dust, as it openly attempted genocide on an entire race. There is no other culture in this country that has suffered so much and yet has stayed so true to their traditions and ancesters; or has had to fight so hard and wait so long to be recognized as a citizen of this country as has the American Indian. Alexis' words are surprisingly mild, all considering. That being said... He's an extremely talented writer and this book is a tremedious example of his great story telling. I read this book awhile ago and want to read it again. It's a compelling thriller that keeps you guessing to the very end. I thought it was an incredible book and didn't want to put it down.
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