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“Winter Counts is a marvel. It’s a thriller with a beating heart and jagged teeth. This book is a brilliant meditation on power and violence, and a testament to just how much a crime novel can achieve. Weiden is a powerful new voice. I couldn’t put it down.”   —Tommy Orange, author of There There A Recommended Read from: Buzzfeed * Electric Literature * Lit Hub * Shondalan “Winter Counts is a marvel. It’s a thriller with a beating heart and jagged teeth. This book is a brilliant meditation on power and violence, and a testament to just how much a crime novel can achieve. Weiden is a powerful new voice. I couldn’t put it down.”   —Tommy Orange, author of There There A Recommended Read from: Buzzfeed * Electric Literature * Lit Hub * Shondaland * Publishers Weekly A groundbreaking thriller about a vigilante on a Native American reservation who embarks on a dangerous mission to track down the source of a heroin influx.  Virgil Wounded Horse is the local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  When justice is denied by the American legal system or the tribal council, Virgil is hired to deliver his own punishment, the kind that’s hard to forget. But when heroin makes its way into the reservation and finds Virgil’s nephew, his vigilantism suddenly becomes personal. He enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend and sets out to learn where the drugs are coming from, and how to make them stop. They follow a lead to Denver and find that drug cartels are rapidly expanding and forming new and terrifying alliances. And back on the reservation, a new tribal council initiative raises uncomfortable questions about money and power. As Virgil starts to link the pieces together, he must face his own demons and reclaim his Native identity. He realizes that being a Native American in the twenty-first century comes at an incredible cost. Winter Counts is a tour-de-force of crime fiction, a bracingly honest look at a long-ignored part of American life, and a twisting, turning story that’s as deeply rendered as it is thrilling.


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“Winter Counts is a marvel. It’s a thriller with a beating heart and jagged teeth. This book is a brilliant meditation on power and violence, and a testament to just how much a crime novel can achieve. Weiden is a powerful new voice. I couldn’t put it down.”   —Tommy Orange, author of There There A Recommended Read from: Buzzfeed * Electric Literature * Lit Hub * Shondalan “Winter Counts is a marvel. It’s a thriller with a beating heart and jagged teeth. This book is a brilliant meditation on power and violence, and a testament to just how much a crime novel can achieve. Weiden is a powerful new voice. I couldn’t put it down.”   —Tommy Orange, author of There There A Recommended Read from: Buzzfeed * Electric Literature * Lit Hub * Shondaland * Publishers Weekly A groundbreaking thriller about a vigilante on a Native American reservation who embarks on a dangerous mission to track down the source of a heroin influx.  Virgil Wounded Horse is the local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  When justice is denied by the American legal system or the tribal council, Virgil is hired to deliver his own punishment, the kind that’s hard to forget. But when heroin makes its way into the reservation and finds Virgil’s nephew, his vigilantism suddenly becomes personal. He enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend and sets out to learn where the drugs are coming from, and how to make them stop. They follow a lead to Denver and find that drug cartels are rapidly expanding and forming new and terrifying alliances. And back on the reservation, a new tribal council initiative raises uncomfortable questions about money and power. As Virgil starts to link the pieces together, he must face his own demons and reclaim his Native identity. He realizes that being a Native American in the twenty-first century comes at an incredible cost. Winter Counts is a tour-de-force of crime fiction, a bracingly honest look at a long-ignored part of American life, and a twisting, turning story that’s as deeply rendered as it is thrilling.

30 review for Winter Counts

  1. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea Humphrey

    "Winter counts were the calendar system used by the Lakota, but they weren't like modern ones. I'd loved the little pictures in the calendars, each image showing the most significant event from the past year. If you are a lover of slow burning, character driven crime fiction, please halt your scroll and immediately add Winter Counts to your 2020 TBR. I know that time and money are limited resources for many readers these days, but I highly recommend planning ahead and making this book a priority "Winter counts were the calendar system used by the Lakota, but they weren't like modern ones. I'd loved the little pictures in the calendars, each image showing the most significant event from the past year. If you are a lover of slow burning, character driven crime fiction, please halt your scroll and immediately add Winter Counts to your 2020 TBR. I know that time and money are limited resources for many readers these days, but I highly recommend planning ahead and making this book a priority if it is within your realm of reading preferences. As a privileged white woman, I'm always actively seeking out books beyond my personal scope of experience, and it's surprisingly hard to find Indigenous crime fiction written by Indigenous authors! This debut blew my expectations out of the water, and managed to provide an educational experience to readers unfamiliar with Indigenous, and more specifically Lakota, ways, while also throwing out a gripping, heart-pounding plot. "Back in the time before Columbus, there were only Indians here, no skyscrapers, no automobiles, no streets. Of course, we didn't use the words Indian or Native American then; we were just people. We didn't know we were supposedly drunks or lazy or savages. I wondered what it was like to live without that weight on your shoulders, the weight of the murdered ancestors, the stolen land, the abused children, the burden every Native person carried." Winter Counts introduces us to Virgil Wounded Horse, a bit of a pariah within the perimeters of his reservation, but also a man with skills that the other residents find necessary. Virgil is the person you call when the American government has failed you; when the FBI chooses not to prosecute those committing rape, abuse, theft, and murder on Indigenous land, you hire Virgil as muscle to deliver the justice you are owed. When word spreads that someone has been selling heroin on the reservation and local teenagers are overdosing, one of the council members hires Virgil to take care of the problem. Teaming up with his ex-girlfriend, Virgil decides to take on the case when the epidemic hits too close to home. While the mystery behind the drug problem is certainly engaging and entertaining, I found the real beauty of this story is the deep look we get into Virgil and his demons. As a biracial man, he isn't fully excepted into his community, but also isn't awarded the privilege associated with the half of him that is white either. This struggle of finding belonging in a world that had been stacked against him is peppered throughout the criminal investigation, but these personal touches are clearly what makes the story shine bright amongst a sea of mundane mysteries. There are even prejudices within the reservation, classism and elitism and privilege based on your family, and Virgil also deals with past loss, a faith that has failed him, and religion tied into cultural practice and beliefs. I don't want to give anything away, but the way that this story wrapped up was beautiful and tinged with just the right amount of bittersweet sadness. As I am unsure if this is truly a standalone, or the beginning of a new series, I will say that I would follow Virgil on future adventures if the author so chose to create them. Highly, highly recommended! *Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Elle

    A fast-paced crime thriller that has just as much grit as it does heart, Winter Counts had me flying through the pages up to the end. I’m very impressed by this debut by David Heska Wanbli Weiden. Left with little recourse against injustice on their reservation, Virgil Wounded Horse is the man you call when seeking retribution. Wounded Horse is a Lakota man living on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota along with his teenaged nephew, Nathan. Virgil is a hired enforcer, a vigilante judg A fast-paced crime thriller that has just as much grit as it does heart, Winter Counts had me flying through the pages up to the end. I’m very impressed by this debut by David Heska Wanbli Weiden. Left with little recourse against injustice on their reservation, Virgil Wounded Horse is the man you call when seeking retribution. Wounded Horse is a Lakota man living on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota along with his teenaged nephew, Nathan. Virgil is a hired enforcer, a vigilante judge and jury that hands down sentences with his fists as opposed to throwing offenders behind bars. It’s a difficult way to make a living, so when the leader of his local tribal council makes him an offer to track down the lowlifes smuggling drugs onto their reservation, he’s not in much of a position to turn him down. I’m not usually one for a tough-guy main character that plays by his own rules, but for the most part I really liked Virgil. He reminded me of Bug Montage of Blacktop Wasteland in that way. He equally loves and is wary of his community, understanding what they’re up against but also knowing what they’re capable of. The members of his tribe view him in much the same way, with barely veiled contempt until they are in need of his services. Winter Counts cracks a window for non-Indigenous readers to see into a small sliver of what life on a reservation is like. You witness both things specific to this reservation and the Lakota people, as well as in a general sense for most ‘Native Americans’. The legal limbo was one aspect that is crucial to the story but probably will surprise most readers. Crimes committed on reservations are typically not prosecuted, by tribal police or federal agents. Reservations are also often the last to get resources, if they make it there at all, and then the residents are criticized for not ‘bootstrapping’ their way out of poverty. It’s a cycle the U.S. government seems unwilling and uninterested in addressing meaningfully. “Sadness is like an abandoned car left out in a field for good—it changes a little over the years, but doesn’t ever disappear. You may forget about it for a while, but it’s still there, rusting away, until you notice it again.” I won’t say too much more about the plot, but I really loved this book. I guessed a few of the big twists, but still had a good time as I sped towards the conclusion. I imagine this author is going to have a long and successful writing career in the future. Thanks to @thor.wants.another.letter & @erins_library for selecting this book as the September MBC pick and to @jordys.book.club & @bostonbookfanatic for hosting! *Also thank you to Ecco Books for an advance copy!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Fran

    Lakota winter counts are documents of recorded history. "Usually drawn on buffalo skins or deer hide, Lakota winter counts are comprised of pictographs organized in spiral or horizontal rows...Waniyeti is the Lakota word for year, which is measured from first snow to first snow". -Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center "By federal law, tribal police couldn't prosecute any federal crimes that happened on the rez. A murder on the rez in 1880's...the killer was banished, but not jailed...upset by the Lakota winter counts are documents of recorded history. "Usually drawn on buffalo skins or deer hide, Lakota winter counts are comprised of pictographs organized in spiral or horizontal rows...Waniyeti is the Lakota word for year, which is measured from first snow to first snow". -Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center "By federal law, tribal police couldn't prosecute any federal crimes that happened on the rez. A murder on the rez in 1880's...the killer was banished, but not jailed...upset by the Native way of justice...a law [was passed] taking away our right to punish our own people". On Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, Virgil Wounded Horse is a vigilante for hire, an enforcer. In Virgil's words, "I'd been hired to beat the hell out of Guv Yellowback [gym teacher] by the father of the little girl at the school. He had raped her. The school had refused to take any action. Tribal police couldn't do anything." Virgil Wounded Horse, half-Lakota, was adrift, caught between two cultures. "I didn't feel any mystical bond with the rez...unpaved roads and our falling-down houses...good kids, decent kids-got involved with drugs and crime...there was nothing for them to do here...why not leave...get a job and make a clean break...putting aside Native ways and assimilating...the sound of the drummers at a powwow, the smell of wild sage...could I ever really leave the reservation?...". Virgil was a reformed alcoholic. He lived with his fourteen year old nephew, Nathan. Nathan's mother had died in a car accident. "I'd quit drinking for good. The money I saved would pay for Nathan's college". Like most teenagers, Nathan had become secretive, more distant...tragedy strikes...Nathan overdoses on heroin, a free "hit" made available to him. Virgil's ex-girlfriend, Marie, was the daughter of Ben Short Bear, a candidate for Tribal President. Marie's parents were upwardly mobile, sought prestige. Marie was expected to reach for the stars, become a doctor...her parent's dream. She'd attended tribal college studying Lakota language and culture. She currently worked for the commodity food program. Marie was learning how to prepare indigenous, healthy cuisine. A sweep of Nathan's school locker...an arrest...possible long term jail sentence. Ben Short Bear wanted Virgil to "take out" those instrumental in bringing heroin to the reservation. He offers Virgil a substantial payday for "setting Rick Crow straight". Removing drugs has now become personal for Virgil, with Nathan's life in the balance. Marie insists on working with him and has ideas of her own where to find and how to handle Rick and other suppliers. "Winter Counts" by David Heska Wanbli Weiden is a character driven crime thriller, a debut by Weiden, an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota nation. This fast-paced, gritty tome involves the collaboration of the FBI, the Tribal police and Virgil, who is determined to clear Nathan of wrongdoing. Support from Marie Short Bear and many secondary players was invaluable. These players were well characterized. Virgil felt that Native traditions-the ceremonies, prayers, teaching- were empty rituals... but"...one day, the words my mother used to say finally came to me...Wakan Tanka nici un. May the Creator guide you". This reader anxiously awaits the next offering in the series with Virgil Wounded Horse. Highly recommended! Thank you HarperCollins Publishers and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    Wow, wow, wow. This was an excellent debut! From reading the summary of this book and previously reading There There, I thought I had an idea of what would be in these pages. I was wrong. No matter who the writer or population discussed is, the very bleak, but important issues in these pages of drug abuse and economic poverty was something that I previously would have moved away from reading about. As I grow and mature as a reader, I am trying really hard to diversify what I read and and also su Wow, wow, wow. This was an excellent debut! From reading the summary of this book and previously reading There There, I thought I had an idea of what would be in these pages. I was wrong. No matter who the writer or population discussed is, the very bleak, but important issues in these pages of drug abuse and economic poverty was something that I previously would have moved away from reading about. As I grow and mature as a reader, I am trying really hard to diversify what I read and and also support #ownvoices authors. So, it was with a little trepidation that I started this on Saturday morning. Thankfully, the little voice that told me to read this was rewarded. The pages went by so fast that I finished it by Sunday night. This is crime fiction at its best and it should appeal to all different types of mystery/crime/thriller fans. There were no superfluous story lines mixed in, there was no agenda - this was just a great piece of writing. The author masterfully crafted this story and gave the characters life. You knew the what and why behind everything that made each person apart of this story. You rooted for all of them. The author accomplished everything he set out to do in his author's note. He educated on Indigenous Peoples (particularly the Lakota tribe), he told a heartbreaking story, but he also told a story of resilience and strength through the odds. I can't quite articulate how much I urge you to read this. Besides it being a really great book, it is a breakout in crime fiction, which desperately needs more diversity in its ranks. My hope is that this will become a series. Thanks so much to Ecco Books and David Heska Wanbli Weiden for the print copy to read and provide an honest review. Review Date: 08/24/2020 Publication Date: 08/25/2020

  5. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    This is our November 2020 pick for the Dragons and Tea Book Club! 🐉☕ ➽ dates & breakdowns: November 9th. chap 1 – 6 November 10th. chap 7 – 12 November 11th. chap 13 – 18 November 12th. chap 19 – 24 November 13th. chap 25 – end ➽ content and trigger warnings: mention of rape, assault, death of a toddler *page 124* police injustice, police brutality, drugs, drug abuse, desolate living conditions, suicidal ideology, alcoholism, murder, criminal activities (thank you so much Michelle!) Blog | Instagram | This is our November 2020 pick for the Dragons and Tea Book Club! 🐉☕ ➽ dates & breakdowns: November 9th. chap 1 – 6 November 10th. chap 7 – 12 November 11th. chap 13 – 18 November 12th. chap 19 – 24 November 13th. chap 25 – end ➽ content and trigger warnings: mention of rape, assault, death of a toddler *page 124* police injustice, police brutality, drugs, drug abuse, desolate living conditions, suicidal ideology, alcoholism, murder, criminal activities (thank you so much Michelle!) Blog | Instagram | Youtube | Ko-fi | Spotify | Twitch

  6. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    "Become the spark that lights the fire and then burn, burn with intensity and purpose because only as ashes shall you rise." (Bernice Angoh Lakota) Winter Counts encompasses those embers that smolder from within. The flame reflects the initiative of the individual as well as the depth and the forcefulness exhibited by the very people themselves. Dare we even imagine the generations upon generations of the Sicangu Lakota who came before these times. Dare we to even know the inner thoughts and the "Become the spark that lights the fire and then burn, burn with intensity and purpose because only as ashes shall you rise." (Bernice Angoh Lakota) Winter Counts encompasses those embers that smolder from within. The flame reflects the initiative of the individual as well as the depth and the forcefulness exhibited by the very people themselves. Dare we even imagine the generations upon generations of the Sicangu Lakota who came before these times. Dare we to even know the inner thoughts and the life experiences of a Great People who respectfully treasure the Lakota ways. David Heska Wanbli Weiden creates a multi-faceted view into a deeply drawn existence familiar to those who live on Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He sets the parallels of ancient honored times of the past with the harsh realities of present life encountered day-by-day on the reservation. But it is through the hard-hitting inner dialogue of these characters that we get a glimpse into lifestyles so unfamiliar to us......to unspeakable injustices that have become a way of life for others. Virgil Wounded Horse has become a boiling cauldron of emotions that overflow and seem to suffocate his soul. He lost his parents some time back and he and his sister, Sybil, created a calendar system of symbols depicting their inner feelings. Virgil would visit that tender place within, once again, when his sister dies in an auto accident. He takes it upon himself to raise his young orphaned fourteen year old nephew, Nathan. With highly charged resentment, Virgil tries to extinguish the Lakota ways. His emptiness seems to limit himself when it comes to Nathan. But he does love the boy and still feels that bond with his sister. Virgil is a master at carrying out the revenge of others. It is noted that the tribal police are limited in their capacity and can't prosecute felony crimes on the reservation. The legal system is almost non-existent and the Feds rarely make an appearance. Rape and murder occur often. Virgil's pent-up emotions serve him well as he is hired to carry out secret payback for those crimes. Serious drugs have made their way onto the reservation with black tar heroin and opiods. Virgil is hired by a tribal councilman to trace their source. His investigation takes him to Denver and to a world more dangerous than he ever imagined. That danger will seep into the crevices aligning Virgil's own life. Winter Counts has depth and breadth and burns slowly as we enter into these lives. Know that going in. It is an intense character study that reveals the inner workings of those existing in a way of life that leads to honor at its highest point and frustration at its lowest point. Thanks to David Heska Wanbli Weiden we hear the powerful winds across the fields and the echoing of the voices of those who need to be heard. I received a copy of Winter Counts through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Harper Collins Publishers and to the talented David Heska Wanbli Weiden for the opportunity.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    “Winter Counts” by author David Heska Wanbli Weiden is a special thriller suspense novel because it takes place on South Dakota’s Rosebud Indian Reservation and it involves the Lakota Sioux Indian culture. The mystery/thriller is almost secondary; the beauty and novelty of the story is the cultural information gained. David Heska Wanbili Weiden is a registered member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation. In addition, has a JD degree including a legal career. His background provides authenticity to his th “Winter Counts” by author David Heska Wanbli Weiden is a special thriller suspense novel because it takes place on South Dakota’s Rosebud Indian Reservation and it involves the Lakota Sioux Indian culture. The mystery/thriller is almost secondary; the beauty and novelty of the story is the cultural information gained. David Heska Wanbili Weiden is a registered member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation. In addition, has a JD degree including a legal career. His background provides authenticity to his thriller. He includes legal information the law enforcement on the reservation, along with different Native spiritual ceremonies and attitudes. I found reading about the culture to be superior to the thriller piece. Saying that, it’s a decent thriller. Heroin makes its way onto the reservation, and a “hired thug” becomes involved. (The criminal justice system on the reservation leaves holes in prosecutions. As a result, it is accepted that vigilante methods can be employed for justice.). I guessed who the main double-crosser was, but that didn’t ruin my joy. I enjoyed how the complexities of the reservation laws and customs complicated police procedure. It picks up into a compulsive page-turner in the end.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

    4.5 Stars ⭐️ I love Native American books and I loved this mystery/thriller written by this author. I look forward to reading more of his work!! I’m going to give away my hardback and purchase it in kindle. Happy Reading! Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾 4.5 Stars ⭐️ I love Native American books and I loved this mystery/thriller written by this author. I look forward to reading more of his work!! I’m going to give away my hardback and purchase it in kindle. Happy Reading! Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dani

    I don’t read much crime fiction (hint: it’s closer to none.) There’s no particular reason other than it just has never been a drama I turn to and I think I know why: there is not a lot of Indigenous authored crime fiction. I’ve discovered I will read ANY genre as long as it’s written by a Native author. The Goodreads Top 50 Native American mystery novels list only contains one Indigenous author. Tony Hillerman is a popular crime fiction novelist whose novels often pop up on such lists, he has bee I don’t read much crime fiction (hint: it’s closer to none.) There’s no particular reason other than it just has never been a drama I turn to and I think I know why: there is not a lot of Indigenous authored crime fiction. I’ve discovered I will read ANY genre as long as it’s written by a Native author. The Goodreads Top 50 Native American mystery novels list only contains one Indigenous author. Tony Hillerman is a popular crime fiction novelist whose novels often pop up on such lists, he has been quoted as saying. “ “I know a hell of a lot more about the Navajo culture than most Navajos do. They’re like the average Kiwanian, the average guy you’d run into on the street. Ask him about his religion and he’ll refer you to a preacher. Most Navajos are the same way.” Sigh. Then in walks Winter Counts by Sicangu Lakota author David Heska Wanbli Weiden and saves my day. I loved everything about this novel. The setting, the characters, the Lakota culture, the storyline, all of it worked for me and I could absolutely not stop reaching for this book. Not only did I find it entertaining, humorous, endearing and well written- I found it touched on many important issues that affect Indigenous people trying to decolonize while living in a colonized society that was built upon systemic racism on stolen Native land. Novels like this are important to me. Not only are they entertaining readers while providing invaluable insights into the issues Indigenous people face, they are also establishing space for Indigenous authors in a genre where there are far too many white voices where they do not belong. Winter Counts is available for purchase on August 25, 2020. I strongly recommend you set a reminder for this one. Read it. Support Native authors. Miigwech

  10. 5 out of 5

    Anna Luce

    3 ½ stars “Winter counts. This was the winter of my sorrow, one I had tried to elude but which had come for me with a terrible cruelty.” Winter Counts is a compelling debut novel. Although this book uses elements and tropes of the thriller genre, the narrative isn’t solely focused on its 'loner vigilante vs. bad guys' storyline (which is perhaps the novel’s weakest aspect). In fact, throughout the course of his narrative, David Heska Wanbli Weiden sheds light on America's past and present syst 3 ½ stars “Winter counts. This was the winter of my sorrow, one I had tried to elude but which had come for me with a terrible cruelty.” Winter Counts is a compelling debut novel. Although this book uses elements and tropes of the thriller genre, the narrative isn’t solely focused on its 'loner vigilante vs. bad guys' storyline (which is perhaps the novel’s weakest aspect). In fact, throughout the course of his narrative, David Heska Wanbli Weiden sheds light on America's past and present systemic oppression of Native people. Usually, I'm more of a character over setting kind of reader but not with Winter Counts. Weiden renders Virgil's community, Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, in a very evocative way. While Weiden doesn't shy away from delving into the everyday injustices and/or bleak circumstances of those who are living on the reservation (alcoholism, drugs, mental illnesses, poverty), he also shows how important, and ultimately life-affirming, traditional practices and beliefs are. When we first meet Virgil he seems to be removed from his own culture. Many on the reservation have treated poorly for being a "half-breed" and the death of his closest relatives has left him alone. Or almost alone as after the death of his sister he has become the sole carer of his nephew, Nathan. When the local council and American's legal system let pedophiles and sex offenders go unpunished, Virgil is the one you hire. “When the legal system broke down like this, people came to me. For a few hundred bucks they’d get some measure of revenge. My contribution to the justice system.” His work as a vigilante has earned him a bit of a reputation and soured his relationship with his now ex, Marie. When Virgil receives an offer from Marie's father, a tribal councilman, he's hesitant to take the job. Someone is bringing heroin into their community and young people are overdosing. Virgil believes that this is one of the few cases that the feds will actually pursue (unlike the “sex assault cases, thefts, assault and battery” cases that the tribal court refers to them) so doesn't see the point in involving himself...that is until heroin finds Nathan. Virgil is forced to collaborate with the same people who have time and again failed his people, and finds himself rekindling his relationship with Marie, who is eager to help her community. The strongest moments in this novel are the ones that are less-action—or suspense—fuelled. Those scenes in which characters are talking about Lakota customs, beliefs, and language were the more poignant and interesting moments in the narrative. Marie was perhaps the most compelling character in the novel, as her desire to improve life on the rez actually begins to break through Virgil's more pessimistic worldview. Part of me wishes that this book had not employed a first pov as Virgil's narration didn't really add any layers to his character (his conversations with others and actions give a clear impression of what kind of person he is). The first pov seemed kind of restrictive as in more than one occasion I found myself wanting to read from Nathan and Marie's perspectives (perhaps because I felt more connected to them than Virgil). Virgil's narration was also kind of repetitive. His inner monologue often consisted in repeating information that had been previously related through dialogue (Weiden, trust your readers!). As I said, Weiden excels at setting. Even those scenes that take place outside the rez, were vividly depicted. Weiden takes a very straight-forward approach when discussing, depicting, or touching up on issues such as the racism and injustices, as well as the many legal and societal biases, Native people experience, the ramifications of colonialism, and generational trauma. Although there are some violent scenes at the beginning and in the final act of the novel, Weiden demonstrate extreme empathy when recounting the Wounded Knee Massacre. I also appreciate that during the course of the story Virgil, Marie, and Nathan are struggling to do the 'right' thing. At times their efforts to do good are misunderstood or miss the mark. Marie in particular is placed in a particularly difficult position. The characterisation of the main bad guy (whose identity won't be all that surprising to readers of thrillers) leaves a lot to be desired. Some of the side characters could have benefitted from some more 'page-time' but they nevertheless felt more dimensional than our 'villain'. Overall, I think this was a very solid debut novel. While I wasn't all that taken by the thriller storyline (which was formulaic), I did find Weiden's portrayal of Virgil's community, as well as his relationship with Nathan and Marie, to be extremely compelling. Thankfully the story doesn't solely focus on action, and we get plenty of scenes in which characters discuss their circumstances, their history, and their future. Read more reviews on my blog / / / View all my reviews on Goodreads

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    I often start my reviews of crime novels by identifying the type of protagonist. It tells you a lot about the book, and a lot of books use the same handful of tired tropes. WINTER COUNTS has the "tough guy" protagonist, usually enough to send me running in the opposite direction. But the thing about these character types isn't that they're inherently bad, it's that they're just so poorly and lazily executed much of the time. This isn't one of those times. Usually the tough guy is past rock botto I often start my reviews of crime novels by identifying the type of protagonist. It tells you a lot about the book, and a lot of books use the same handful of tired tropes. WINTER COUNTS has the "tough guy" protagonist, usually enough to send me running in the opposite direction. But the thing about these character types isn't that they're inherently bad, it's that they're just so poorly and lazily executed much of the time. This isn't one of those times. Usually the tough guy is past rock bottom and the book traces his path back up to goodness/stability/whatever. He is always going "back" to the good life he squandered because he's not really "that guy" blah blah blah. WINTER COUNTS isn't that kind of story. Virgil Wounded Horse is a tough guy because it's basically his only option. He isn't there because he ruined a good life. He's there because of the elaborate, systemic oppression of the Lakota people on his reservation. By the end of the book you'll be intimately acquainted with life "on the res" and how just getting off of it doesn't actually fix any of the problems. There aren't that many options for Virgil, and law enforcement on the reservation is basically nonexistent, so there's a demand for a vigilante. Especially one who takes some pleasure in inflicting pain on bad guys. Things get complicated when his ex's father, a politician and one of the few well-off Lakota, asks him to look into an old bully of Virgil's who he says is bringing heroin into the reservation. Virgil is suspicious about it, but when it becomes clear that heroin is actually infiltrating the community, he takes the job. Virgil is expertly done. He is just as tough as he should be, has real soft spots and vulnerabilities, but isn't much of an optimist. He doesn't make plans for the future but he's no longer a self-destructive alcoholic. He doesn't participate much in the tribal religious practices but he has good reasons for it. He is the guardian to his teenage nephew and worries about him constantly, trying to keep his life stable but also keeping some distance out of fear and doubt. The plot moves at a pretty steady clip and I particularly enjoyed how there are several parts of the book that don't impact the central mystery at all, just scenes of Virgil living his life, building our understanding of character and setting while never distracting too much from the big plot. (Particularly enjoyed a tangent chapter spent at Casa Bonita, that Denver institution that any kid who grew up within a couple hours of it is intimately familiar with.) The supporting characters really get to grow and develop along with Virgil. We don't have a lot of crime fiction from authors of color at all, and Indigenous/Native representation is particularly bad so this is a very welcome addition. It gives a fuller and deeper picture of Native life than we typically see in books by white authors that include Native characters. This is gritty enough that I suspect fans of Don Winslow would enjoy it, and I bet readers of Craig Johnson's Longmire series and C. J. Box would like it, too. I actually can't really think of a type of mystery reader I wouldn't recommend it to except those who can't handle violence. There is a decent amount of descriptive violence, much discussion of drug use, and a lot of casual references to pretty terrible crimes happening on the reservation (sexual assault, violence, suicide) though they're generally off the page. I hope we see a lot more from the author.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Linden

    Daughter's boyfriend hitting her? Your kid being abused by a rogue teacher? Call Virgil, the rez's unofficial vigilante, and he will take care of the miscreant when the law won't. Now he wonders if his nephew really kept drugs in his locker, or were they planted there? And who is selling drugs to the locals? Virgil and his girlfriend Marie aim to find out, even though there may be horrific repercussions. This was a nail-biting page-turner; it's hard to believe it's a first novel. The reservation Daughter's boyfriend hitting her? Your kid being abused by a rogue teacher? Call Virgil, the rez's unofficial vigilante, and he will take care of the miscreant when the law won't. Now he wonders if his nephew really kept drugs in his locker, or were they planted there? And who is selling drugs to the locals? Virgil and his girlfriend Marie aim to find out, even though there may be horrific repercussions. This was a nail-biting page-turner; it's hard to believe it's a first novel. The reservation setting was unique and the characters were well-drawn. Recommended for fans of Michael Connelly thrillers, and to anyone who is interested in a gritty look at reservation life. Thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for this ARC.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Laura Peden

    For the most part, I really enjoyed this book. My only complaint is that I figured most of it out early and it felt like it took them forever to get to the reveal. The last like 30% was my favorite section, which I found thrilling. The rest is more of a slow burn, character driven mystery.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sallie Dunn

    Let me start with a thank you to Netgalley and Harper Collins for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I thoroughly enjoyed the action in this crime novel that is set in the present day on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Virgil Wounded Horse is a “half-breed” Lakota Indian who mostly makes his living as a hired thug. He has guardianship of his 14 year old nephew because Virgil’s sister died in a car crash several years before the story opens. Nathan gets mixed up with drugs Let me start with a thank you to Netgalley and Harper Collins for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I thoroughly enjoyed the action in this crime novel that is set in the present day on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Virgil Wounded Horse is a “half-breed” Lakota Indian who mostly makes his living as a hired thug. He has guardianship of his 14 year old nephew because Virgil’s sister died in a car crash several years before the story opens. Nathan gets mixed up with drugs and the story moves forward from there. As the story fleshes out, the reader is made aware of many of the social issues that make life so difficult for Native Americans in America today. The result was eye-opening yet presented in an action packed tale. I think this book would appeal to a wide range of readers. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

  15. 4 out of 5

    Glenda Nelms

    Compelling, gripping and exciting #ownvoices thriller by David Heska Wanbli Weiden. If you like slow building, character driven thrillers, Winter Counts is for you. Virgil wounded Horse is an enforcer on the Rosebud Native American Reservation in South Dakota. When justice is denied by tribal council or the legal system, Virgil is brought in to deliver his own type of justice. Drug cartels and drug addiction grips over the reservation and the people in it. Virgil's nephew Nathan gets caught up i Compelling, gripping and exciting #ownvoices thriller by David Heska Wanbli Weiden. If you like slow building, character driven thrillers, Winter Counts is for you. Virgil wounded Horse is an enforcer on the Rosebud Native American Reservation in South Dakota. When justice is denied by tribal council or the legal system, Virgil is brought in to deliver his own type of justice. Drug cartels and drug addiction grips over the reservation and the people in it. Virgil's nephew Nathan gets caught up in the battle of money and power. Virgil enlists the help of his former girlfriend, Marie Short Bear. He investigates where the drugs are coming form, how did the drug cartels bring the drugs into the reservation and how to stop them. While investigating the case, Virgil facing his own past and reclaiming his identity.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Robert Intriago

    Virgil, a Lakota native American , lives in the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota. He is the unofficial enforcer for the reservation. One of the council members pays him to stop the distribution of heroin in the reservation. He finds out that the drug dealer is in Denver, CO. The writing and the story are average but the background information about tribal customs and life in the reservation is quite illuminating. The author’s attempt at comedy tends to be a little corny but well intentioned. Virgil, a Lakota native American , lives in the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota. He is the unofficial enforcer for the reservation. One of the council members pays him to stop the distribution of heroin in the reservation. He finds out that the drug dealer is in Denver, CO. The writing and the story are average but the background information about tribal customs and life in the reservation is quite illuminating. The author’s attempt at comedy tends to be a little corny but well intentioned. A 3.5+.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Huber

    Own Voices Review/Lakota representation TW: mention of rape, assault, death of a toddler *pg 124* police injustice, police brutality, drugs, drug abuse, desolate living conditions, suicidal ideology, alcoholism, murder, criminal activities Thank you to Ecco Books & David for the arc and finished copy! Wow, this book is amazing. I was immensely shocked when the arc showed up on my doorstep. I started reading it a few days ago, since I am a co-host of the Mystery Book Club for the month! I flew th Own Voices Review/Lakota representation TW: mention of rape, assault, death of a toddler *pg 124* police injustice, police brutality, drugs, drug abuse, desolate living conditions, suicidal ideology, alcoholism, murder, criminal activities Thank you to Ecco Books & David for the arc and finished copy! Wow, this book is amazing. I was immensely shocked when the arc showed up on my doorstep. I started reading it a few days ago, since I am a co-host of the Mystery Book Club for the month! I flew through it, even running out of some of my tabs! I usually don't read synopsis for thrillers, as I like to be surprised. I'd heard the synopsis a few times, but I didn't have a single guess as to what was going to happen! Being Lakota, I haven't seen much representation for a book that involved a Lakota person, much less something in South Dakota. It was wonderful seeing my Lakota language on the page! I loved Virgil as a character, considering I have a couple uncles who have similar attitudes and ideas. The story was great but at a certain point it slows down a little, and I would have liked to have seen more details or dialogue between a couple of characters. The ending was thrilling and had me yelling and screaming! All in all, I am so proud of David and his accomplishments with this book! I can't wait to see what else he writes!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Erin || erins_library

    (Gifted from Ecco Books) ⠀ “The tribal police couldn’t do anything. The feds prosecuted all felony crimes on the rez, and they didn’t mess with any crime short of murder.” ⠀ I was reading this book right when the landmark McGirt vs. Oklahoma Supreme Court decision was made this month. I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect book, because the biggest moving factor was the relationship (or lack there of) between The Rosebud Indian Reservation and the FBI. Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden (Sica (Gifted from Ecco Books) ⠀ “The tribal police couldn’t do anything. The feds prosecuted all felony crimes on the rez, and they didn’t mess with any crime short of murder.” ⠀ I was reading this book right when the landmark McGirt vs. Oklahoma Supreme Court decision was made this month. I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect book, because the biggest moving factor was the relationship (or lack there of) between The Rosebud Indian Reservation and the FBI. Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden (Sicangu Lakota) is a crime novel that touches on a very real issue that doesn’t get enough visibility. Our main character Virgil Wounded Knee acts as a hired vigilante when the American legal system fails to investigate and protect the community. The story also seamlessly integrated lateral violence, grief, money & power, and more. Weiden has created a visceral, 3-dimensional world that we could step right into. ⠀ I also found myself thinking a lot about the characters and the conflicts within themselves. Virgil is introduced to us as the tough guy enacting justice, but you quickly realize it’s a cover for his vulnerabilities. He confronts the trauma of his past, and begins to see that mirrored in his nephew Nathan. Nathan is in pain, trying to do his best to cope on his own. And Marie is torn between pursuing a western education and the validity of Indigenous knowledge to serve her community. And I don’t think their stories are done. I could see this being the beginning of a series. ⠀ I love all Indigenous literature, but I get particularly excited when it’s genre fiction (ie horror, romance, thriller, fantasy, scifi, etc.). And crime fiction in particular has been lacking in representation by Native authors. I’d love to see more of it, because it is a great genre to explore and learn about very real issues in Indigenous communities. My people (and most Alaska Native people) don’t reside on reservations, so I appreciated Weiden’s work in raising awareness. Especially as crime on reservations is something that I was aware of, but haven’t experienced firsthand. ⠀ CW: drug use, overdosing, violence, brief mention of sexual assault/rape

  19. 5 out of 5

    Siobhan

    Quite a good read. At first I was put off by the machismo of the vigilante narrator, but as I read on, I thought it’s a pretty interesting spin, to transpose that old trope to the context of Native American reservations, where federal handling of crimes means so many people get away with literal murder. At first I was also uncomfortable with the portrayal of corrupt tribal politicians, but there too, I found the book showing that this tribal community really does have self-governing mechanisms—e Quite a good read. At first I was put off by the machismo of the vigilante narrator, but as I read on, I thought it’s a pretty interesting spin, to transpose that old trope to the context of Native American reservations, where federal handling of crimes means so many people get away with literal murder. At first I was also uncomfortable with the portrayal of corrupt tribal politicians, but there too, I found the book showing that this tribal community really does have self-governing mechanisms—eg, medicine people, community rituals, kinship networks—that truly work. I hope he writes more.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Doreen

    8/12/2020 Hoping that the ginormous plot hole towards the end was plugged before this hit the printers for the actual pub date. Full review tk at CriminalElement.com. 8/18/2020 The publicist was kind enough to send me a copy which fixed the plot hole! I'm so pleased! Look out for my glowing review next week. 9/2/2020 And here it is! If you're not already sold on this book, please consider reading my review linked here. 8/12/2020 Hoping that the ginormous plot hole towards the end was plugged before this hit the printers for the actual pub date. Full review tk at CriminalElement.com. 8/18/2020 The publicist was kind enough to send me a copy which fixed the plot hole! I'm so pleased! Look out for my glowing review next week. 9/2/2020 And here it is! If you're not already sold on this book, please consider reading my review linked here.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Canaves

    I especially loved two things about this novel: the characters and the setting. You realize how starved we are for certain stories and voices when publishing finally tosses you one. It’s like finally getting a drink in the desert, and as soon as you’re done you’re like give me so much more. That’s how I felt with this mystery, which I could not put down. Virgil Wounded Horse lives in South Dakota on the Rosebud Indian Reservation and makes a living off of a legal loophole of sorts. The local poli I especially loved two things about this novel: the characters and the setting. You realize how starved we are for certain stories and voices when publishing finally tosses you one. It’s like finally getting a drink in the desert, and as soon as you’re done you’re like give me so much more. That’s how I felt with this mystery, which I could not put down. Virgil Wounded Horse lives in South Dakota on the Rosebud Indian Reservation and makes a living off of a legal loophole of sorts. The local police are only allowed to handle certain cases and everything else must be passed on to the FBI. The problem in this is that the FBI does not take all the cases, which leaves many criminals, from predators to robbers, unpunished. That’s where Virgil comes in: people pay him to basically beat the snot out of criminals who fall through the cracks. He’s also raising his nephew since his sister passed away and is the only family left. Because he’s responsible for not just himself anymore, he toys with taking a high paying job to investigate who is bringing in drugs to the reservation. He’s reluctant for a slew of reasons including it’s his ex-girlfriend’s father hiring him. But when the case hits close to home he’s left without much option. That’s how he finds himself paired up with his ex-girlfriend, and the FBI, to find out what is happening. I absolutely loved Virgil, the vigilante for hire, as he’s cleaned up his life but still struggles to find his place. He’s introspective, curious, and also listens. A great contrast in his partnership with his ex who has lived a privileged life and is also in different ways struggling to find her place. I also loved the balance of seeing many different characters’ lives, and voices, on and off the reservation. A great mystery with excellent characters–everything you want in a crime novel! (TW addiction/ mentions suicides, one with detail/ past rapes including children mentioned, not graphic/ child death/ pedophile, crimes off page/ fat shaming) from: https://bookriot.com/2020/03/06/eerie... and Book Riot's Unusual Suspects newsletter: https://link.bookriot.com/view/56a820...

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kayla Frazee

    Nothing bad here, but nothing life changing either. We got a story with no real beginning, no middle, just an end. It felt less like the characters and story were evolving and more like things just happening, for no rhyme or reason, in order.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bookreporter.com Mystery & Thriller

    David Heska Wanbli Weiden has given us a remarkable debut novel with the publication of WINTER COUNTS. This Native noir gem introduces an interesting and complex protagonist in Virgil Wounded Horse, who refuses to conform to the expectations of what is and what is not a 21st-century Native American. Add a right-now, real-world problem as an anchor for the plot, and the result is a one-sit read that will leave you wanting more. Virgil Wounded Horse is a self-styled enforcer on the Rosebud Indian R David Heska Wanbli Weiden has given us a remarkable debut novel with the publication of WINTER COUNTS. This Native noir gem introduces an interesting and complex protagonist in Virgil Wounded Horse, who refuses to conform to the expectations of what is and what is not a 21st-century Native American. Add a right-now, real-world problem as an anchor for the plot, and the result is a one-sit read that will leave you wanting more. Virgil Wounded Horse is a self-styled enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Due to large and quite frankly inexcusable gaps in jurisdiction between federal law enforcement and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, there are any number of “minor” offenses that go unrecognized and escape justice. Virgil fills that gap memorably, effectively and violently. Things get close to him when heroin starts showing up on the reservation from an unknown source. Worse, his orphaned teenaged nephew Nathan gets into the mix when he overdoses, almost fatally. That immediately puts Virgil, accompanied by his ex-girlfriend, Marie Short Bear, on the road to Denver, where an Indian with a bad prior history with Virgil has hooked up with a drug-dealing gang. They can’t locate him but do find trouble when Nathan, while still recuperating from the overdose, is arrested for possession after his school locker is found to have enough street drugs to put him away for years on a federal rap. A deal is put together with the assistance of a veteran criminal lawyer, and Virgil has deep regrets about letting his nephew get involved. However, he has little choice, given the potential sentence that Nathan faces, even as he vehemently denies that he ever had drugs in his locker. While attempting to manage Nathan’s situation, Virgil and Marie also discover a potential problem for the reservation involving embezzlement of federal funds, which in turn later dovetail back to their primary problem: drug dealing on Rosebud and how it relates to Nathan. Everything goes wrong before it goes right; in the end, though, not everything goes right either. Weiden saves plenty of surprises and the majority of the violence for the final quarter of the book. He does an exceptional job of matter-of-factly describing the cringe-inducing poverty rampant on the reservation, which may well (and should) make readers appreciative of their own situation, however dire it might seem. Weiden also treats his audience like grown-ups, tossing out Indian terms in the vernacular so that one might spend some time digging up interpretive meanings of individual words, as well as using online slang dictionaries. For example, you will discover what an “apple” and an “Oreo” have in common (Oreos, of course, taste better and come in more flavors). Immersing a reader in unfamiliar terms isn’t a bad thing, but it might break the reading flow for some. A separate glossary included in the next installment of the series might be helpful. And, yes, I am hoping that there will be a book two and more beyond that. I made a small list of potential subjects for future Virgil novels --- not that Weiden needs me or anyone else for help --- which includes the effects of casinos on reservations; the acquisition of property into Indian trusts; and the reprehensible failure to investigate or even keep track of the disappearance of Native women on the United States-Canadian border, a state of affairs that has been ongoing for centuries. I may be expecting a lot on the basis of WINTER COUNTS (and that term is memorably explained within the covers), but Weiden is more than capable of exceeding my hopes. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub

  24. 4 out of 5

    Authentikate

    For me, the best books have always been the ones that entertain me while teaching me something new. Winter Counts fits that definition. Life on the American Reservations isn’t easy: Poverty, crime and desperation...in long supply. This novel is raw, visceral, unflinching and damn good. I don’t dole out many five star reviews so I feel like I should say why this one ranks up there. I read my fair share of crime fiction. But when a new voice comes on the scene—an important voice...a different voic For me, the best books have always been the ones that entertain me while teaching me something new. Winter Counts fits that definition. Life on the American Reservations isn’t easy: Poverty, crime and desperation...in long supply. This novel is raw, visceral, unflinching and damn good. I don’t dole out many five star reviews so I feel like I should say why this one ranks up there. I read my fair share of crime fiction. But when a new voice comes on the scene—an important voice...a different voice—it commands attention. Winter Counts is a slow burning drama that, while suffering from a slower pace in the beginning, unfolds a character-driven portrait of “rez life” that many should see for themselves. It’s a harsh but sympathetic story...real. I appreciate what it said and what “really said.” I appreciate the lesson and welcome reading more from David Heska Wanbli Wieden...(can’t wait to see Virgil again!) I learned so much as my fingers flew through the pages of the earnest debut. 🤗 It’s good folks. It’s necessary. It’s unique. 🙌🙌🙌🙌🙌

  25. 5 out of 5

    KB_615

    This book is epic. I randomly chose it off of Scribd because it was available as an audiobook, and I’m so glad that I did. Winter Counts really spiced up my road trip as a compelling thriller set on Rosebud Reservation. I really loved reading about cynical Virgil Wounded Horse and his escapades as a private enforcer. Furthermore, the author touches on essential historical and current truths about crime on reservations. In the author’s note, he discusses private enforcers on native reservations, This book is epic. I randomly chose it off of Scribd because it was available as an audiobook, and I’m so glad that I did. Winter Counts really spiced up my road trip as a compelling thriller set on Rosebud Reservation. I really loved reading about cynical Virgil Wounded Horse and his escapades as a private enforcer. Furthermore, the author touches on essential historical and current truths about crime on reservations. In the author’s note, he discusses private enforcers on native reservations, and how the federal government necessitates their existence by not persecuting federal crimes. I also really liked all of the action scenes. The protagonist Virgil is a certified badass—better than Jason Bourne. If you’re looking for a book that is both entertaining and informative, then I would highly recommend Winter Counts. Also the reader for the audiobook has an impressive talent for vocal acting. I was thoroughly entertained by his accents. He brought the story to life, really helping me visualize the words on the page and the described action. A strong read. Dipped in pace around the middle, but overall grabbed my attention!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    This is a wonderful mystery that is set on Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota and all of the main characters are Native Americans. It's a real page turner mystery but it also gives us a picture of the poor living conditions on the reservations and a lot of history about the Lakota tribe. Virgil Wounded Horse is an enforcer. He punishes people who are ignored by the justice system. He is a recovered alcoholic and is has been raising his 14 year old nephew since the boy's mother got killed This is a wonderful mystery that is set on Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota and all of the main characters are Native Americans. It's a real page turner mystery but it also gives us a picture of the poor living conditions on the reservations and a lot of history about the Lakota tribe. Virgil Wounded Horse is an enforcer. He punishes people who are ignored by the justice system. He is a recovered alcoholic and is has been raising his 14 year old nephew since the boy's mother got killed in a car accident. Virgil is approached by a man on the tribal council and asked to look into the heroin that has started to become available on the reservation and sold to the young people. After getting more information, he agrees to find out who is behind bringing the drugs in and to make them stop no matter what he has to do. When his search begins to affect his nephew and his old girlfriend, he realizes that he is dealing with more than Mexican cartels - he is also dealing with corruption by those who should be protecting the people on the reservation. I don't want to give away any of the plot but I will tell you that once you start this book, you won't want to put it down. The main character is a flawed person and a hero at the same time. He wants to help his people but has long given up his trust in the old beliefs of the Lakota tribe. Even though he is a very conflicted man, he stays protective of his nephew, girlfriend and all of his friends. He is a complex character who is very driven to protect those around him. I enjoyed this debut novel and have just read that it is the first novel in a new series. I am definitely looking forward to further books in this series.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah-Hope

    Winter Counts is a mystery novel that doesn't just have a mystery. It's also truly a novel—with complex, engaging characters, a rich backstory, and multiple well-crafted plot lines. Much of Winter Counts is set on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, which is home to the novel's central characters. At the novel's heart is Virgil Wounded Horse, an "enforcer" who enacts justice when neither the tribal police nor the federal agents are able—or willing—to act. He's raising his nephew whos Winter Counts is a mystery novel that doesn't just have a mystery. It's also truly a novel—with complex, engaging characters, a rich backstory, and multiple well-crafted plot lines. Much of Winter Counts is set on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, which is home to the novel's central characters. At the novel's heart is Virgil Wounded Horse, an "enforcer" who enacts justice when neither the tribal police nor the federal agents are able—or willing—to act. He's raising his nephew whose mother, Virgil's sister, was killed in a car crash. Virgil has been asked to look into the arrival of heroin on the reservation, but is ambivalent about the case until, as they say, it becomes personal. At that point, he finds himself headed to Denver to look for a man who may be involved in the drug trafficking. Virgil's ex-girlfriend Marie insists on accompanying because she knows the man Virgil is looking for. Having grown up bullied and experiencing first-hand the things traditional sacred practices can't heal, Virgil's discarded much of the culture he was raised in—but now, tracking the drug dealers and protecting his extended family and community, he's having to reexamine his choices. Winter Counts is both thoughtful and action-packed, a highly rewarding read. The novel works beautifully as a stand-alone, but I find myself hoping I'll meet Virgil in print again sometime soon.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cindy H.

    Virgil Wounded Horse is a Native American vigilante, righting wrongs on his reservation where justice is often not met. When Virgil’s nephew gets caught up in some messy business it’s up to Virgil to set things straight. I really enjoyed reading about Native American traditions and customs. While the writing & story was pretty basic, I still found this book engaging and informative. #OwnVoices Good narration 🎧roundup 3.5 /5 stars Virgil Wounded Horse is a Native American vigilante, righting wrongs on his reservation where justice is often not met. When Virgil’s nephew gets caught up in some messy business it’s up to Virgil to set things straight. I really enjoyed reading about Native American traditions and customs. While the writing & story was pretty basic, I still found this book engaging and informative. #OwnVoices Good narration 🎧roundup 3.5 /5 stars

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rana

    Why do I keep doing this to myself, reading books in this thriller mystery type genre? I just don't like them, they never seem quite deep enough, not enough character development. This was fine, but didn't wow me. But I don't know what it would take for a thriller mystery to wow me.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Viccy

    Virgil Wounded Horse is an enforcer on the Rosebud Rez in South Dakota. The tribal police are a joke and the Feds have no interest in maintaining order, they just want the glory of sensational arrests. Virgil takes care of those rapes, and thefts, and bullying that are the everyday crimes; he wields a baseball bat; a Glock and a Smith and Wesson. Virgil is a man adrift, caught between two cultures. His nephew, Nathan, lives with him since Virgil's sister was killed in a head-on collision. But he Virgil Wounded Horse is an enforcer on the Rosebud Rez in South Dakota. The tribal police are a joke and the Feds have no interest in maintaining order, they just want the glory of sensational arrests. Virgil takes care of those rapes, and thefts, and bullying that are the everyday crimes; he wields a baseball bat; a Glock and a Smith and Wesson. Virgil is a man adrift, caught between two cultures. His nephew, Nathan, lives with him since Virgil's sister was killed in a head-on collision. But heroin is engulfing the rez and Nathan overdoses. He manages to survive and Virgil and his on-again, 0ff-again girlfriend, Marie Short Bear, travel to Denver to see if they can track down Rick Crow who is the local contact for the Aztec Kingz, who are trafficking the heroin. He has been hired by Marie's father, Ben Short Bear, to find Rick Crow and mete out justice. But things get complicated when Nathan is arrested by the Feds on charges of distributing narcotics on the rez and he has to agree to wearing a wire to help the Feds bust the heroin ring. Things go horribly wrong and Nathan disappears. Virgil has to find him and in order to do that he must accept and recognize that there is more in this world than anyone can fathom. He goes on a vision quest and finds where Nathan is being held and, with the help of Marie, he brings Nathan back safely. This is an amazing book, one of the best I have read in a long time. The reader is fully immersed in the story and learns, along with Virgil, that denying one's identity is a dangerous thing. It is only by fully embracing one's culture that one can be at peace. Highly recommended.

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