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Murder on the Red River Paperback – April 11, 2017
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
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An appealing 19-year-old heroine, Renee 'Cash' Blackbear, lifts [Marcie] Rendon’s first mystery.” Publishers Weekly
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Cash is spending her time in Fargo and the Red River Valley where she drives grain and sugar beet trucks most of the year, and hustles pool the rest of the time. She's carrying on an affair with a married man, Jim, her pool partner, but both know it's not going anywhere.
The other important character in the story is Sheriff Wheaton who pulled Cash out of a car wreck when she was only three. He treats her like a daughter. He trusts her instincts. She has a flair for law enforcement and also an almost clairvoyant intuition. For instance, an Indian man is found stabbed to death. Cash sees a roadside stand selling pine cones in a dream. She's seen that stand in her forays as a truck driver, and she knows who the man was.
Wheaton tells Cash she's too smart to drive a grain truck. He goes to Moorhead State University and gets her an application. Chippewas get free tuition and expense money if they maintain a “C” average. In the back of his mind he's thinking criminal justice degree and a great deputy.
Then there's another man killed, this time a white man Cash recognizes from an overheard conversation she listened in on at her favorite bar. She visits the crime scenes; she's got a bead on these guys, then she's kidnapped.
Author Marcie R. Rendon is a member of the Anishinabe Nation. This is her first novel, although she's won some awards for children's writing and has studied poetry at the Loft, a writing center in Minneapolis. But she makes some rookie mistakes. Cash spends more time smoking Marlboros and drinking Bud than she does investigating the case. That's a cliché and most mystery writers don't do it anymore.
The second problem I had with the book was the ending. Just when we thought Cash was turning a new leaf (she's already registered for school), she meets “Long Braids” who wants to hook up with Dennis Banks and Russell Means and the A.I.M. group. We don't know she's going to do that, but we do know she's not going to break up Jim's marriage. She's seen his three little towheaded daughters. Despite these two minor problems, Cash is a likable character with a sense of humor. She has long black hair like Crystal Gayle's. When she enters her local hangout the regulars bet on whether she's get it stuck in the door. Sometimes she does it on purpose so the same guy doesn't win all the time. I'll definitely check in on Cash again if this becomes a series.
As a Native woman and former professor in American Indian Studies, it is way-cool to see various aspects of Native life in Rendon's story. They're done right, they're done honestly, and they're done well! They're not goofy or new agey or any of what I see in so many books with Native storylines. Rendon knows what she's writing about!
I hope we get another book about Cash, soon!