Sunday, September 14, 2014
Review: Sinking Suspicions by Sara Hoklotubbe
Sinking Suspicions. Sara Sue Hoklotubbe. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, September 4, 2014. ISBN: 978-0-8165-3107-3. Paper, $16.95. Also available in e-book format. 224 pages.
In Sara Sue Hoklotubbe’s third novel in her Cherokee mystery series, Sinking Suspicions, Sadie Walela goes to Hawaii. She has a new job as a travel agent arranging trips to Hawaii. Her boyfriend, Lance Smith, chooses not to go with her. Then Sadie’s neighbor Benjamin (Buck) Skinner goes missing. He is upset because the IRS is claiming he owes back taxes, and Buck knows he has paid everything. Someone has stolen his identity, which the IRS can’t seem to grasp, and they are threatening to take his 200-acre farm, which he owns free and clear and loves. He can’t understand why the government won’t leave him in peace. Buck is an aging World War II veteran. He won a Purple Heart as a Marine with the 4th Division in the Pacific. He was wounded and shipped home, and he doesn’t like to think about the war or the Hawaiian woman he loved and lost.
Meantime Lance Smith goes to a chicken plant in a nearby town because the phone number was on a pad in Buck’s house. A man was murdered at the chicken plant just before Lance arrives, and then the identity thief, using Benjamin Skinner’s name, is found dead at the trailer where his girlfriend lives. Charlie McCord, with the police in Sycamore Springs, is investigating and welcomes Lance’s help. Lance had trained under him and now, as Chief of the Liberty Police Department, he wants to find Buck, but he doesn’t think he’s the murderer. Charlie keeps pointing out that Buck had the motive.
Sadie is enjoying Hawaii, its tropical lushness and kind people. She becomes friends with Pua, who works for the travel agency at the Hawaiian end, but Sadie is worried about Buck and decides she’d better go home. Then the island she’s on has an earthquake, which cancels flights and makes life difficult for the islanders until power and normalcy is restored.
I enjoy Hoklotubbe’s books. I always learn more about contemporary Cherokee culture from the inside. I didn’t know that so many Indians had served in World War. II, a higher percentage of their American ethnic group than in any other. The connection between the Oklahoma Cherokees and the native Hawaiian family, with Japanese ancestors, was interesting. Both groups had similar experiences with the dominant white Americans, who mistreated the Cherokees from the Trail of Tears up to the present day, and Hawaiians were not treated well by the U.S. military during World War II.
I like the quiet, almost reverent tone that Hoklotubbe uses to tell her story. It’s a good story, simply told, with plenty of puzzles along the way. I recommend it.
Margaret Coel, author of the Wind River mysteries, wrote: “Another intriguing mystery from a gifted storyteller. With a sure hand, Sara Sue Hoklotubbe ratchets up the suspense while exploring the myths, passions, and fears of modern-day Cherokees.”
Sara Sue Hoklotubbe , a Cherokee tribal citizen, is the author of the award-winning Sadie Walela mystery series. The American Café received the New Mexico-Arizona Mystery Book of the Year Award, the WILLA Literary Award, and the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers Mystery of the Year Award. Sara won the Writer of the Year Award from Wordcraft Circle for Deception on All Accounts. She and her husband live in Colorado.