Cover image for Spirit sickness
Spirit sickness
Mitchell, Kirk.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Bantam Books, [2000]

Physical Description:
354 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense

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From the author ofCry Dancecomes a new suspense thriller in the tradition of Tony Hillerman and Joseph Wambaugh.  Spirit Sicknessreunites Bureau of Indian Affairs Criminal Investigator Emmett Quanah Parker and FBI Special Agent Anna Turnipseed, two Native American cops torn between their heritage and the law. A burned-out police cruiser, gutted by fire in a remote part of the Navajo reservation, bears witness to a horrific crime.  Inside are the bodies of a tribal patrolman and his wife.  Even more chilling, the bodies were left to greet death in the traditional Navajo way:  the killer has smashed a window to let loose the chindis, the spirits of the dead. As BIA Investigator Emmett Quanah Parker knows, a cop's murder is never simple, raising countless questions and suspicions.  Parker and FBI Special Agent Anna Turnipseed must make their way through a tangle of lies and misdirection, sift through an assortment of suspects, and work around the sexual tension between them that neither can hide nor ignore.  Then another murder complicates the case even more, exploding their investigation into an unimaginable realm. The latest killing makes it clear that an inhumanly cunning mind is at work, weaving personal madness with a complex mix of Navajo mythology and superstition.  Both Parker, a Comanche, and Turnipseed, a Modoc, are well acquainted with the eerie shadowland between native myth and modern homicide investigation.  But now they will have to tear down the barriers they have constructed to separate heritage from professional duties.  They must embrace the attitudes they have long submerged under cold rationalism, and hope to touch minds with a murderer who has created his own reality-and with it the need to kill and kill again. Following a serpentine trail through Navajo gangs and methamphetamine runners, Parker and Turnipseed are on the scent of a cold and ancient evil.  And they must find it before a killer erupts in a final outburst of blood fury and madness.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The bodies of a tribal cop and his wife are found in a burned-out police car on the Navajo reservation in northern New Mexico. BIA investigator Emmett Parker and FBI agent Anna Turnipseed are called to the crime scene. They arrive with plenty of baggage--their developing but troubled relationship; Anna's difficulty in recovering from the trauma she experienced in Cry Dance [BKL F 15 99]--and the case before them opens still more wounds: Emmett, a Cherokee, and Anna, a Modoc, are both believers in rational investigatory technique, but as they track a psychotic killer who imagines himself to be the Gila Monster of Navajo myth, they must confront their own ambivalence about Native American spirituality. Mitchell emphasizes action over police procedure, and he delivers a high-octane thriller in the Thomas Harris mold. Hillerman fans will find this series less subtle than the Leaphorn-Chee novels but more exciting. The climactic scene, in which Parker tracks the Gila Monster across a rugged stretch of the reservation, will leave readers gasping for breath. --Bill Ott

Publisher's Weekly Review

In his second suspense novel featuring unseasoned FBI Special Agent Anna Turnipseed and relentless Bureau of Indian Affairs Investigator Emmett Parker (after Cry Dance), Mitchell pulls out all the stops. Emmett persuades Anna, a fellow Native American, to join him on a case in the Navaho Reservation's Four Corners area. The ritualistic murders of a tribal policeman, Bert Knoki, and his wife, Aurelia, lead the investigators on a serpentine path. As they tear around Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, Anna and Emmett fight their mutual attraction, but their bickering can't disguise the compassion they feel for each other. All Mitchell's complex characters are haunted by the past; the detectives arrive at the solution by first examining Southwestern history, then forcing the truth out of suspects and witnesses. One wonders how Anna and Emmett are able to continue their physically wounding and emotionally grueling work on hardly any sleepÄbut, after all, this is fiction. Comparison with Tony Hillerman is inevitable, due to the locale and Mitchell's Hillermanesque blending of Native American myth and practices with themes that emphasize the hard life of contemporary Indians. But Mitchell's novels are more violent than Hillerman's, his killers more emotionally tortured, his detectives far more damaged in body and soul. Shifting the location of each book should help Mitchell, a powerful writer of deep emotions, breathtaking natural beauty and nail-biting suspense, to step into his own spotlight. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

As in Cry Dance (LJ 3/1/99), Mitchell once again combines the Indian lore and Southwest landscape of a Tony Hillerman mystery with the gruesome ghoulishness of a Thomas Harris thrillerDnot always successfully. When the bodies of a Navajo patrolman and his wife are discovered in a burned-out police cruiser, Bureau of Indian Affairs Investigator Emmett Parker, a Cherokee, and Anna Turnipseed, his half-Modoc, half-Japanese FBI partner, are called in to investigate, leading them on the trail of a serial killer obsessed with a particular Navajo myth. What they discover in their hunt is a legacy of spirit sicknessDalcoholism, fetal alcohol syndrome, incest, poverty, child abuseDthat results in several more brutal murders. Mitchell, a former law enforcement officer who patrolled reservations in California's Inyo County, knows Native American culture very well and accurately portrays the grim realities of reservation life. But his book bogs down in an overly convoluted plot with too many red herrings, and his switching points of views from Parker and Turnipseed to the killer doesn't always work. For larger mystery collections.DWilda Williams, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.