In a startling departure from his earlier, more lyrical fiction, Native American novelist Alexie (Reservation Blues) weighs in with a racially charged literary thriller. Seattle is rife with racial tension as the city is terrorized by a serial murderer nicknamed "Indian Killer" because the victims, all white, are scalped and their bodies topped with a pair of white owl feathers. At the center of the novel stands the mentally disintegrating John Smith, a 6'6" Native American ignorant of his tribal roots because he was adopted and raised by white parents. As the city's racial divide increases, Marie Polatkin, a combative Spokane activist and scholarship student, organizes demonstrations and distributes sandwiches and sedition to homeless Indians, while reactionary shock-jock Truck Schultz rails on the air against casinos on reservations. Three white men with masks and baseball bats (compatriots of a murdered University of Washington student) prowl the downtown area beating any Native American they find; a trio of Indians similarly beat and knife a white boy. Through it all float a number of psychological half-breeds, among them a mystery writer who's an Indian wannabe and a buffoonish white professor of Native American literature who is forced to re-evaluate his qualifications. Over the last few years, Alexie, who is Spokane/Coeur d'Alene, has built a reputation as the next great Native American writer. This novel bolsters that contention. It displays a brilliant eye for telling detail, as well as startling control, as Alexie flips points of view among a wide array of characters without ever seeming to resort to contrivance. The narrative voice can sound detached and affectless, and some readers will miss the lyricism and humor of the author's earlier work, but this novel offers abundant evidence of a most promising talent extending its range. 75,000 first printing; $75,000 ad/promo; author tour; rights: Nancy Stauffer. (Sept.)
Alexie (The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, LJ 9/1/93) was recently cited by Granta as one of today's best young American novelists. In his latest novel, a quasi-thriller, a mysterious Indian is killing and scalping white men in Seattle. The most obvious suspects are John Smith, an Indian who was adopted and raised by white parents, and Reggie Polatkin, the product of a marriage between a Spokane woman and an abusive white man. The novel's appeal, however, lies not in our drive to detect the killer's identity but in the sheer wonder of Alexie's fabulously sketched minor characters: Marie, a young, idealistic Spokane woman who befriends John; Wilson, a celebrated white mystery writer à la Tony Hillerman, who mistakenly believes he can elucidate the Native experience; and Dr. Mather, a "Wannabe Indian" who teaches Native American literature and clashes with Marie. Unfortunately, the humor that made the bleak stories in The Lone Ranger and Tonto so enjoyable is missing here, and the grinding of Alexie's axe is sometimes a bit loud. Still, this is a fine novel by an up-and-coming writer and, given the 75,000-copy first printing, there should be ample demand. For most fiction collections.‘Mark Annichiarico, "Library Journal"
"A terrific second novel by the talented Native American author whose highly praised fiction has already moved him onto the short list of the country's best young writers. It's a rich, panoramic portrayal of contemporary Seattle that uses the form of the mystery to tell some uncomfortable home truths about Indian-white relations, and indeed racism in all its forms . . . [an] exciting story with a host of keenly observed and rigorously analyzed characters. . . . Alexie succeeds brilliantly at suggesting the time-bomb-ticking character of John Smith's ravaged psyche, and the novel rips along at a breathless pace. . . . Both a splendidly constructed thriller--and a haunting, challenging articulation of the plight and the pride of contemporary Native Americans." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Vigorous prose . . . haunted, surprising characters . . . flashes of sardonic wit . . . [ Indian Killer is] a meditative exploration of the sources of human identity." --Richard E. Nicholls, The New York Times Book Review "Hard-edged and urban, distinctly individual. . . . The characters in Mr. Alexie's work are not the usual kind of Indians. . . . They are not tragic victims or noble savages . . . they listen to Jimi Hendrix and Hank Williams; they dream of being basketball stars. . . . And unlike most Indians in fiction, they are sometimes funny." --New York Times "A slyly subversive potboiler . . . a multilayered work . . . highlights the tenuous thread of civility that exists between white and American-Indian cultures." --Los Angeles Times "Decries America's prejudices while telling a rip-roaring good tale." --People "A brilliant job. . . . This book will leave your head whirling. . . . A reminder that racial tensions are alive and well." --San Antonio Express-News "Not since Richard Wright's Native Son has a novel by a minority writer so devastatingly indicted an entire society and laid bare with merciless candor the racial hatred festering at the center of it." --Kansas City Star "Part thriller, part magical realism, and part social commentary, Indian Killer . . . lingers long past the final page." --Seattle Weekly "Stunningly well-written . . . riveting." --Rocky Mountain News "Alexie has angry wit and offhand charm. . . . Best of all, the fireworks and authority are in the service of an ambitious and difficult theme: racial hatred." --Boston Sunday Globe "Sherman Alexie has found his m tier in writing novels that open the way for understanding history's destructive spells." --Philadelphia Inquirer "A racially charged literary thriller." --Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Scorching . . . brilliantly detailed." --Boulder Planet "Alexie mesmerizes. . . . A haunting, painfully vivid portrait . . . frighteningly real." --Hartford Courant "A passionate, beautifully constructed and compelling novel by an extremely gifted writer." --Salon Previews, Border Books