Winter's Child
Margaret Coel     

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Wind River
Book: 18


Margaret Coel’s New York Times bestselling series continues as Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden and Father John O’Malley discover that a centuries-old mystery is tied to a modern-day crime on the Wind River Reservation…
In the midst of a blizzard, Myra and Eldon Little Shield found an abandoned baby on their doorstep and brought her inside. Five years later, no one has come back to claim the little girl now known as Mary Anne Little Shield. But now that she’s old enough to start school, her foster parents fear social services will take her—a white child—away from them.
Determined to adopt Mary Anne, the Little Shields hire lawyer Clint Hopkins, who wants Vicky as cocounsel on the case. But before their meeting can take place, a black truck deliberately runs Hopkins down in the street.
Enlisting Father John to help investigate who would kill to stop the child’s adoption, Vicky unravels a connection between the five-year-old girl and a missing alcoholic Arapaho wanted for robbery—only to uncover one of the darkest secrets in Wind River’s history…

Lander, Wyoming attorney Vicky Holden is asked by Clint Hopkins, an attorney specializing in adoptions, to consult on a complicated case involving a couple living on the Arapaho reservation and wanting to adopt a white child. Clint gives Vicky a file with cryptic notes, but before he can make good on the promised meeting with Vicky to explain the details of the case, he is struck by a car and killed. The authorities think it's an accident, but Vicky thinks it's deliberate and tied to the adoption case. Meanwhile, Jesuit priest Father John O'Malley is helping his niece Shannon make contacts on the Wind River Arapaho reservation to help with her college dissertation about two sisters captured by the Cheyenne's in the 19th century. This long ago event has surprising parallels to recent events and though they have recently put some distance in their friendship, Vicky and Father John end up working together again on the adoption as well as a robbery case.

Winter’s Child is part of the long-running Wind River mysteries. I've read only a few of them and have never had a problem following the backstories of the main characters. Those books I have read are always well researched and eloquently written, and Winter's Child is no exception. The author excels at combining history, tradition, and modern events. It is amazing how the author is able to connect the life of Lizzie Brokenhorn, who was abducted at age two and came to marry an Arapaho and also think of herself as an Arapaho, to a current case on the Wind River Reservation.

Vicky and Father John are also working on a case involving a missing alcoholic Arapaho wanted for robbery and again it's amazing how the author is able to tie this to the adoption case in an unexpected way. This book has a very bittersweet tone. Both of the cases are heartbreaking and Vicky and Father John's wonderful friendship is filled with anguish as well. The story the author tells is dramatic but without pat, happy endings, which makes it more realistic.

The character of Father John's niece, Shannon, slowly grows on me and her unexpected love story is among the lighter moments of the book. I can see Shannon turning up in a future book, which would be good since I enjoyed the scenes with her and her uncle. This also gives the reader the chance to learn about the Arapaho people and their traditions along with Shannon. The fate of the St. Francis mission where Father John is assigned is uncertain, so it will be interesting to see what happens next in this unique series.

~ Christine