Monday, June 21, 2010

Wild Indigo

Wild Indigo by Sandi Ault

The high desert of New Mexico becomes the backdrop for this debut novel of ancient rituals, restless spirits, a desperate female Fed, and a crime that could destroy an entire culture.

Bureau of Land Management Agent Jamaica Wild witnesses a Tanoah Pueblo man being trampled to death by stampeding buffalo. The tribe declares the incident a suicide, the FBI concurs, and the body is hurried to ceremony before the sun can go down on the man’s spirit.

But Agent Wild suspects foul play. Haunted by the memory of seeing the man’s body bloody with welts and a strange ecstasy in his eyes, she pursued her own investigation, which leads her into a labyrinth of clandestine Pueblo religious rites, peyote cults, and Hispanic and Tiwa witchcraft. But Jamaica has promised the mother of the victim, the beloved matriarch of the Santana family, that she will find out what really happened to her son. For until Anna Santana took her in long ago, Jamaica was a stray, much like the wary wolf pup she has just rescued.

When the tribal government and the local paper makes allegations that Jamaica caused the stampede, she soon finds herself banned from the Pubelo, suspended from her job, and allied with an old, reclusive curandera who induces trances and casts spells.

Ultimately, Jamaica discovers that the answer to the mystery is contained in another secret, perhaps the greatest secret regarding Tanoah Pueblo—one that threatens its future and its past.
--Wild Pueblo by Sandi Ault, Copyright ©2006 by Sandi Ault, published by The Berkeley Publishing Group

My Review

I had some reservations (no pun intended) reading a story set on a pueblo in northern New Mexico. Being an east coast urban/suburbanite, I know so little about Native American life that all I could hope for was an enjoyable story that didn’t get preachy about the plight of the erosion of Native American culture. Or worse, take for granted that I fully understood the culture and would therefore not need to be taught some of the more esoteric aspects of said culture. I was pleasantly surprised.

Wild Indigo is a well-written story, educating the reader on some of the beautiful and wonderful aspects of Native American culture while giving the people the respect they deserve. The story centers on the unusual suicide of a tribal member, witnessed by the protagonist, a Bureau of Land Management agent, Jamaica Wild. Jerome Santana did not seem the type to her to take drugs or to want to kill himself by wandering into a herd of buffalo, but that’s exactly what happened.

Jamaica files her report and orders herself to forget about it, but she can’t. The dead man’s mother, Anna, is her own “adopted” mother and Jamaica can’t rest until she can deliver the truth to Momma Anna.

The rest of the tribe, however, doesn’t want her to get involved. The elders go to her boss at the BLM and accuse her of causing the stampede that caused Santana’s death. Jamaica is suspended pending further investigation, which only frees her to check things out on her own.

She’s reluctant, as doing so could get her into further hot water with the Tanoah people, but Momma Anna the spirits will not be denied and Jamaica’s own curiosity pulls her further into the mystery. A missing little boy and old man proves to be the key to the mystery and Jamaica must climb the forbidden Indigo Falls Mountain to find them, and the truth.

This book is the first in a series of (so far) four books featuring BLM Agent Jamaica Wild. Wild Indigo was followed by Wild Inferno, Wild Sorrow, and Wild Penance. Wild Indigo takes a little work to read as there is so much the reader needs to learn about the Native American culture, but Sandi Ault is a wonderful writer and she conveys this information in simple, easy to understand language. Readers should have no difficulty understanding the intricacies of the culture and becoming absorbed in this wonderful tale.

I give this story THREE STARS.

1 comment:

Michelle Massaro said...

I enjoy reading your reviews! You are very articulate in describing the reading experience and it helps in figuring out the quality of the book more than just reading the sound-bite on the back cover copy. Thanks!