For tribes of the American Southwest, the annual Sun Dance is among the most solemn and sacred of rituals. But lately Death has been an uninvited guest at the hallowed rite.
Ute tribal policeman Charlie Moon is puzzled. The deceased Sun Dancers sustained no visible, life-ending injuries, so he is reluctant to call it murder though there is surely nothing "natural" about the sudden, inexplicable deaths of two strong and healthy men. Unlike her skeptical nephew, however, Charlie's aunt, shaman Daisy Perika, trusts the signs the spirits have sent her of a great evil in their midst. And Moon's matukach friend, Police Chief Scott Parris, believes the stubborn, good-natured Ute lawman should look beyond the rational for answers. Yet Charlie Moon knows too well that hatred, bitterness, and delusion are often behind lethal acts and he hopes these very human failings will reveal to him a killer. But now a beautiful childhood friend has stepped into harm's way and time is running out. For death is on the prowl once more and it will surely darken the Sun Dance again.
About the Author
James D. Doss, recently retired from the technical staff of Los Alamos National Laboratory, now spends most of his time in a small cabin above Taos writing mystery fiction. He also travels to the fascinating locations where his stories take place, often camping in remote areas to absorb the impression of an Anasazi ruin, a deep canyon, an arid mesa, or a Sun Dance. His Shaman series includes The Shaman Sings, The Shaman Laughs, The Shaman's Bones, The Shaman's Game, The Night Visitor, and Grandmother Spider. The unusual plots are a mix of high technology and mysticism (Shaman Sings), bizarre animal mutilations (Shaman Laughs), theft of a sacred artifact (Shaman's Bones), an unprecedented form of murder and revenge at the Sun Dance (Shaman's Game), a most peculiar haunting followed by the discovery of an astonishing fossil (Night Visitor), and because a small girl has killed a spider without performing the prescribed ritual the appearance of a monstrous, murderous, eight-legged creature on the reservation (Grandmother Spider, of course!).
Read an Excerpt
In Sight Of Crowheart Butte
It Is The final day.
Almost the eleventh hour.
Far overhead...unseen by mortal eye...the hawk circles slowly. And waits.
On the parched plain below, encircled in a dry embrace of willow bones, is the annual ritual...the acceptance of pain.
Here are men with numb, heavy legs...blistered, bleeding feet padding on sun-baked earth...swollen tongues whisper prayers for healing...for the flesh...for the soul.
In this place...men launch quests for visions.
Some...make fatal decisions.
It is the Sun Dance.
In the center of the enchanted circle stands the sacred tree.
With patient monotony, the Cheyenne drummers thump the taut rawhide.
The crippled Paiute singer wails his tales of times when animals walked and talked like men.
On the first day, there were sixteen enthusiastic dancers. Now, a trio of weary men shuffle their feet and sweat...and bleed.
Joseph Mark his brothers of the Blue Corn Clan call him the Sparrow is the last Shoshone still able to stand before the consecrated tree.
Only these dancers remain with the Sparrow: the hatchet-faced Sioux and the skinny white man.
The other Shoshones have spent all the strength that was in them...and then borrowed. Their debt is a heavy one.
And others have given it up. Aglum Blackfoot reclines on a blue cotton blanket, his knees drawn close to his chest as if he would withdraw into the womb of the earth. A dusky Bannock sits in the dust, a hollow look in his yellowed eye...muttering incoherently...shivering as if he were cold. Even the brash young Ute from the land beyond the southern mountains is finally too exhausted to stand in the sun. Though his head is unbowed, he is now a spectator...though of a more exalted rank than the scattering of visitors who sit along the north wall of the brush corral.
But the lone Shoshone has not retreated from his quest.
The Sparrow's coarse black braids are streaked with gray; his eyes are like slits cut in leather. The Shoshone dancer wears a single garment-soft deerskin breeches decorated with a shimmering fringe of porcupine quills. His lean body is unadorned except for this: from wrist to shoulder, his arms are painted a garish blue. A cord of braided horsehair is looped around his neck; suspended from this is a whistle fashioned from the hollow bone of an eagle's leg. Fixed to the whistle with twists of dried sinew are two small plumes from the same bird.
His parched lips are cracked like the bed of a dry pond, his swollen tongue might be a lump of sandstone in his mouth. The soles of the dancer's feet are padded with stinging blisters; a doughy mixture of blood and dust is caked between his toes. The insatiable sun has roasted his lean body...and basted him in a salty broth of tears and sweat. Now he feels hungry tongues of fire lick at his face...and his fingers...the flames taste him. Will he be swallowed up?
A part of the Sparrow's mind whispers urgently to him: Withdraw now... you have played the man...take your rest...
But he is a stubborn pilgrim.
And so close to his heart's desire.
The lone hawk leans into the wind...and circles lower. And watches.
A spectator winds the coiled steel spring in a cherished pocket watch. Tiny segments of time...links in an infinite cosmic chain...are pulled along by minuscule toothed wheels. As the tiny gears' teeth bite and swallow the seconds, thin metallic hands rotate on the ivory face of the timepiece. They can only revolve clockwise, of coursetoward the future Minutes thus digested can never be tasted again. Not in Middle World.
Like all genuine revelations, it comes suddenly...without warning. Without expectation.
The blue-armed dancer's agony is set aside into some remote partition of himself. The Shoshone has almost ceased to exist in this exhausted body...even in this world. Now the Sparrow dances in another world. It is a place of astonishing, unnamed colors. There are fleeting shapes of shaggy homed beast and rumbling cloud-spirit, rolling streams of crystalline waters. Voices of ancestors and spirit winds sing together among the peaks of snowy mountains.
In Middle World, the spectators, the other dancers...these mortals hear only the incessant thumping on the rawhide drums and the monotone, nasal voice of the aged Paiute singer. It is a familiar song called Flathead Woman Who Took Grizzly Bear for a Husband.
But for the isolated dancer, perceptions are of another kind. Though the pain has remained in Middle World with his physical body, all his senses shaped and honed by the suffering of the vision quest are exquisitely sharp. And oddly inverted. Except for the sacred tree and this symbol stands ever before him the familiar landscape of Middle World is reversed. All is backward. Upside down. Inside out. The midday sky is a shimmering orange pool beneath his feet, the crude brush corral an enormous golden wreath floating above his head like a victor's crown. The frigid black sunlight makes his skin glisten with intricate patterns of frost. The other dancers, the drummers, the spectators...are naked, transparent...he can see their articulated bones and stretched tendons...all of their innermost parts.
The Sparrow must strain to hear the drum's hollow call. The old man's comic song about Flathead Woman's children by Grizzly Bear comes from impossibly far away...from another world. But in this new place, the smallest sounds are easy to hear. In his altered state of consciousness, the drone of a distant horsefly is a humming whirlwind in his head...he hears the labored breath of another dancer...even the pop-snap as the eyelids of a spectator close and open.
The Shaman's Game. Copyright © by James Doss. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Dark Charlie Moon mystery well leavened by his devious wacky aunt Daisy. With an interesting ending that ties the trail of Native American mysticism off nicely.
Enjoyable series. I think the whole series averages out to a four star review. Less serious than Tony Hillerman, more so than Carl Hiaasen. The locale, as with most of these Southwestern mystery novels, is a real part of the draw! If Daisy Perika's old homestead were real and being offered to me, I would be packing my bags instead of pecking away at this computer. The characters are likeable, the stories interesting (especially the first ten or so) if occasionally a liitle over the top. Mr. Doss includes just a touch of the supernatural, that I usually find attractive. All in all I find the stories wonderfully escapist.. all that I look for in fiction. While not necessary, I would recommend reading the stories in order if possible.
¿And all my days are trances, And all my nightly dreams Is where thy gray eye glances? And where thy footstep gleams--- In what ethereal dances, By what eternal streams. Edgar Allen Poe ¿ from one in paradise¿ ¿It is not known how many days the dance will last. It is like an angel comes and stands by his bed while he is sleeping and tells him he should be Sun Dance Chief, and tells him how he should run the dance, and how long it should be.¿ ___ Anne M. Smith, Ethnography of the Northern Utes¿'thirsty Dancing'..This book was haunting but it also had laughter and was light and got darker at the end- it has unusal ending . It is one of those transformative stories that authors use to change directions with characters in a long running series. The author uses the differences in gender and age with grace and humor. He also shows the differences in perceptions that we all have of each other with the same grace and humor. It sets the stage where the focus becomes ¿Charlie Moon¿ and Daisy although Scott Paris is still the faithful friend¿ I still am waiting for some kind of Celtic ¿ Druid connection between him and Daisy.
If you like a mystery good read
This book would be a great movie. It has all the 'movie' elements: love, betrayal, murder, and the supernatural!! The way Doss writes it makes you feel as if you are inside the book, like you can see what is going on. The only part of the book I did not like was at the end he left one part of the story undone. He never says what happened with this. Other then that, its great!! I would recommend this to anyone who likes mystery books!