Two beautiful Indian women are found dead with their noses cut off - an old Indian practice to punish infidelity - in this suspenseful second mystery by best-selling author Ed Gorman.
The mutilation murders stun the quiet Iowa town of Cedar Rapids and call for the special skills of criminal psychologist Robert Payne, who uses clues from the crime scene to piece together a psychological portrait of the killer. The prime suspect is another Indian, David Rhodes, who is estranged from his wife, police detective Cindy Rhodes - and the woman with whom Payne is starting to fall in love.
David Rhodes may have been morally outraged because the two murdered women were exploiting young girls in a prostitution ring. However, Payne discovers that the crime bears an eerie resemblance to a case involving a young Indian brave at the turn of the century. And when David is attacked by two well-established white men who clearly have something to hide, suspicion starts to shift. Payne uncovers another link to the town's frontier past - and finds that a prominent Cedar Rapids family guards a dark secret.
Hawk Moon is the second in the late Ed Gorman's Robert Payne series of four books. Blood Moon, the first was enjoyed late last year.
Our main character, Robert Payne is an ex-FBI profiler and a widower. Payne gets involved in investigating the murder of a couple of Native American women in Cedar Rapids. The main suspect is a Native American man, David Rhodes who Payne saved from a severe beating by two rich white men outside a casino. Rhodes' estranged wife Cindy is a police officer and despite her separation from her husband and their differences she doesn't believe he is capable of the crimes he's suspected of.
The narrative flip flops back in time a hundred years or so, to a similar situation regarding Indian mutilations and an investigation into them. In both settings we see racist and sexist attitudes on display. It's funny how ever much things change prejudice and superiority complexes seem eradicable among certain sections of society.
Our mystery involves an investigation(s) - past and present, some romance, conflict, further death, pre-judgement in the court of public opinion and leeway given to those in positions of power and influence. Alcohol abuse affects some of our particpants.
Payne is good company as a main character. We have a recap on his personal and previous career situations. He misses his late wife, but is able to live in the present and form new relationships. He judges people on their merits as opposed to having pre-conceived ideas about them. He's capable, tolerant and intelligent.
Overall a decent mystery with a backdrop involving reservation life and community and social issues. People have problems with addictions and there is a little bit of debate over whether the benefits of licensed gambling have benefited the indigenous community or harmed it. Like any large scale change, there are winners and losers.
The outcome was satisfying. Gorman throws in a few twists and turns along the way. The guilty wasn't anyone I suspected, but I don't think I tried particularly hard to second guess the author.
4 from 5
As well as the first in this series, I've enjoyed a few other Gorman books lately - with Tom Piccirilli - Cast in Dark Waters (with Tom Piccirilli), Murder in the Wings, Nightmare Child and Murder on the Aisle.
Read - (listened to) July, 2021
Published - 1995
Page count - 256 (5 hrs 58 mins)
Source - Audible purchase
Format - Audible