David Heska Wanbli Weiden's first novel, Winter Counts, is a gripping story of crime investigation set on the Lakota Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. Virgil Wounded Horse is cynical. He can't imagine not living on the rez, but he's more than skeptical of Indian spirituality and ritual, and doesn't feel very connected to his people; his memories of being bullied in school are too fresh. Now that both his parents and his sister are dead, he doesn't have much family to feel loyal to--but he is devoted to his orphaned nephew, Nathan, now a teenager who shares his home.
Virgil makes his living as a private enforcer. Tribal police have very limited powers, and the feds don't bother with much on the reservation short of murder, so the Lakota often resort to hiring someone like Virgil to deliver vigilante justice. It's not necessarily work to take pride in, though, especially in the eyes of his ex-girlfriend's politically powerful family. So Virgil is surprised when her father, a tribal council member, asks for his help. And he's even more surprised when the case brings Marie back into his life.
Action and suspense are special strengths in this novel, and Weiden, himself a member of the Lakota nation, brings valuable perspective to the lives and experiences of his characters. At the heart of Winter Counts is a fight for the future of Rosebud Reservation and the lives of Virgil, Nathan, Marie and many more for whom this place is home. Tightly paced, compelling, realistic and deeply felt, Weiden's debut offers a fresh take on the crime thriller. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia