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Never Name the Dead by D.M. Rowell
Mae “Mud” Sawpole has been living in California for the last decade, where she went to college and headed a successful start-up. It’s about as far away as she can get from her home on the Kiowa reservation in Oklahoma, but when her beloved grandfather calls and tells her he needs her to come home to deal with a problem within the tribe, she gets on the first plane. When she arrives at the airport, he’s not there…and instead, Mud uncovers a tangled conspiracy involving illegal oil drilling, tribe politics, a predatory antiquities dealer, and missing tribe valuables. And her grandfather is missing. Over the course of a single stressful, chaotic day, Mud must unravel the mystery, find her grandfather, and perhaps discover her true destiny.
I’m always really impressed with books that manage to distill an entire mystery plot into a single day’s time. It’s an impressive feat of pacing and plot that really has to work if you’re going to pull it off well, and Rowell pulls it off wonderfully. From the moment Mud lands in Oklahoma and realizes her grandfather is missing to the very end, the character introductions are balanced well with plot twists, exposition, and thoughtfully placed flashbacks. I really liked Mud’s character — as a teen she left home because she never felt fully respected or accepted by her tribe, ostensibly for her looks, but there was also the quiet heartbreak of not being able to love her secret girlfriend in public. Coming home is complicated by her lingering feelings for her first love, her conflicting feelings for her family and tribe, and the pull she feels for the life she has made for herself in California. But with each passing hour spent back in Oklahoma, Mud comes to the slow realization that this is not only home, but where she’s meant to be — and she’s the only one who can solve the mystery and keep her family and her tribe safe from those who would take advantage of them.
This is the first in a promised series, and I definitely plan on reading them all! Bonus: The audiobook was really gripping!
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