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by Sandi Ault
Berkley, January 2007
ISBN: 0425213692

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Jamaica Wild works for the Bureau of Land Management in New Mexico, near the reservation of the Tanoah Pueblo Indian Tribe. One Indian woman, Momma Anna, has adopted Jamaica as a member of her family. Though the Indian community is totally against outsiders learning too much about their ways, recipes and native language, Momma is happy to teach Jamaica because her own people are turning away from the old traditions. And Jamaica, because of her lonely childhood, has an unquenchable thirst for tribal culture, traditions and holy customs.

While visiting during 'Quiet Time' a religious period when outsiders are not permitted on the reservation, news comes that a herd of buffalo has gotten loose and so Jamaica goes to help. When she gets there she sees Jerome Santana, Momma Anna's son, standing inside the herd. He doesn't seem to realize the danger he is in and in fact looks like he is on drugs. Jamaica fails to save him when the animals start to run and he is trampled to death.

The occurrence is quickly ruled a suicide. But Jamaica can't believe it; she knows that Jerome has never taken drugs, and that he wasn't someone who would commit suicide. But as she asks questions everyone in the tribe gets angry with her, and finally a rumor starts that she was the reason for the herd stampeding and killing Jerome. The Indian tribe's elders tell her that she is no longer welcomed on Tanoah Pueblo land.

Quietly, Jamaica continues her own investigation, using the help of her boyfriend, forest ranger and photographer Kerry Reed, the local FBI agent and Mountain, Jamaica's wolf cub, a one hundred pound young wolf that she adopted earlier in the year.

Most of WILD INDIGO is dedicated to teaching the readers all about the Tanoah Pueblo ways and of the problems of Native people in the modern world. A lot of time is spent describing the wild New Mexican land surrounding the reservation.

I can't say I enjoyed WILD INDIGO. The mystery of the death isn't the most important thing in this book, and in the end it simply turns out to be another way to teach the reader more about the heartbreaking problems of Native American culture. This book is more for people who want to learn about Native Americans, not for anyone looking for a good mystery.

I won't search for the next in this series because the character of Jamaica isn't very likable. She's almost not there at all and only serves as a pupil in order to have a reason to share information about the location and the Indian tribe. She isn't a strong woman and doesn't even demand respect from the people she's learning about. When Indian women make disparaging remarks about her, saying, "Let the white girl do it" when there's a messy job to be done, or to say that the white girl is too weak or not very bright when she's asked to do something she has never done before, Jamaica take the insults without any thought that she should be spoken to with some common courtesy.

Jamaica's pet wolf, Mountain, demolishes her home regularly when she leaves him alone, and she doesn't rebuke him or even try to train him. All she says is that he was acting out because he was angry she left him alone. She's so wishy-washy she doesn't even act like an alpha animal to her own pet. She sleeps spooning with her wolf, singing 'their' song to him, and during the day keeps his comfort first in mind. If Jamaica didn't have a boyfriend, the extreme closeness of her relationship with her animal would be mighty strange. Well, it still seems kind of strange to me.

Read WILD INDIGO for its intricate picture of the Tanoah Pueblo Indian tribe of New Mexico. It's definitely for people with an interest in Native American customs, culture and supernatural myths. People with a desire for a good mystery story and an engaging main character should look elsewhere.

Reviewed by A. L. Katz, January 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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