Alexie, a Coeur d'Alene Indian, is the first to admit that being Native
American never hurt his chances as a writer: "It's a really crowded world
out there, and everybody is clamoring for attention. You use what you've got.
And what I've got that makes me original is that I'm a rez boy." However,
once he began publishing his poetry and stories in the early nineties, it was
immediately apparent that what distinguished this young writer was talent, not
ethnicity. By the time Alexie had published his first major story collection,
Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
, and his darkly comic debut novel,
, it was clear that Alexie was one of the major literary voices of
his generation. In addition to a lengthy list of awards and grants, both The
named Alexie one of the twenty most important
young writers in the country.
Many Alexie fans, though, were taken aback by his second novel. Alexie had
always been known as a comic writer. His stories of reservation life tended
to be poignant and lyrical, but also very funny. After all, you can't win the
World Heavyweight Poetry Bout four times without knowing how to please an audience.
Indian Killer is not a vehicle for Alexie's trademark wit. It
is nonetheless very entertaining, though its pleasures are more akin to a bungee
jump than a Ferris wheel. Seattle native John Smith is an Indian who has been
raised by white parents. As his awareness of his lost heritage grows, Smith
becomes increasingly angry, alienated, and delusional. When the city is terrorized
by a serial killer who scalps his victims in the traditional Indian fashion,
racial tensions are brought to the fore, and the reader is left to wonder about
both the identity and motivation of the "Indian Killer." Is John Smith
the culprit, or is the killer's identity even more mysterious? Indian Killer
is a searing portrait of violence and racism in the guise of a gripping suspense
thriller. As you would expect from a writer of Alexie's caliber, it succeeds
at both. Farley, Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A murderer is stalking and scalping white men in Seattle. While this so-called Indian Killer terrorizes the city, its Native American population is thrown into turmoil. John Smith, an Indian adopted as a newborn baby into a white family, is increasingly dissatisfied with his life and dreams of the existence he might have led on the reservation - he is gently descending into madness. In his search for connection he meets Marie, a strident young student at the local university who is isolated from her tribe; she is highly educated, but not in her own traditions. Marie is particularly enraged with people such as Jack Wilson, a local ex-cop and now a popular mystery writer who passes himself off as part Indian in a desperate attempt at acceptance. Jack is determined to write about the brutal killings in his next novel, a novel that he believes will truly reveal what it is like to be Indian. With each new murder, the city is gripped by fear, and hate crimes perpetrated by white men against the Native American community grow increasingly violent. As the murderer searches for his latest victim, and the Indian population of Seattle is filled with a strange combination of fear and relief, Indian Killer builds to an unexpected and terrifying climax.
"Alexie's tale is septic with what clearly seems to be his own unappeasable fury." John Skow, Time
"[Alexie's] vigorous prose, his haunted, surprising characters and his mediative exploration of the sources of human identity transform into a resonant tragedy what might have been a melodrama in less assured hands." Richard E. Nicholls, The New York Times Book Review