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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Review: Snake Dreams by James D. Doss

In honor of Native American day coming up on Oct 12, I am reviewing the latest in the series of mysteries all taking place in or around the Ute Indian reservation in Southern Colorado written by James D. Doss. During the month of October we will be reviewing paranormal mysteries to get us “in the mood” for Halloween. So this review is appearing now.

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Snake Dreams by James D Doss

This is the thirteenth book in the Charlie Moon Mysteries (first in the series was The Shaman Sings.) Charlie Moon started out as a Ute Tribal “Policeman” in Southern Colorado, but he has become a rancher with his own spread and cattle while being a tribal investigator on the side.

In this installment, we see the seven-foot tall Ute Indian planning on asking his ladylove to marry him. But things go south quickly, as they tend to do for Charlie. One of the continuing storylines is Charlie’s aunt Daisy, who is an elderly and cranky shaman (or medicine woman) and her schemes. The ghost of a Ute woman, Chiquita Yazzi who had lived on the Reservation but took off (gossip said with another man) has visited Daisy. She has been viciously murdered and is worried about her daughter, Nancy Yazzi, that she had left behind. And that is the extent of that murder. It isn’t investigated. It was just the entry point to get the focus on the daughter.

The murder of Chiquita’s husband (Mr. Wetzel) who is the stepfather to the teenage Nancy, is the crux of the story. The vast majority of the book is various activities of Aunt Daisy, her charge Sarah Frank, and a new conspirator in Aunt Daisy’s schemes - Millicent Muntz. The book is full of Doss’ characteristic humor but short of an actual mystery. This installment is more a delightful tale than a coursing mystery screaming to be solved. It seems the series has changed and I am longing for the older books when Charlie Moon and his best friend Scott Parris actually investigated crimes more.

The strong point in this book is the humor and the characters. Used to be Charlie Moon and his sense of humor was the source of laughter, but now the omniscient narrator leads the reader with wry humor.

Here is a sample of the humor and writing style. We pick up the story with Charlie finishing a phone call with his love interest.
 Time to say, “Goodbye Charlie.” To this, she added a kissing sound!

Did this make an impression on Mr. Moon?

Here he comes, out of the kitchen, deep voice booming “I Walk the Line” with so much heart and soul that the most diehard fans of the Man in Black would sit up and expect to see Mr. Cash appear around some dark corner. But can out man sing and dance at the same time? You know he can. Hot-footing it along that well known Line, Moon is doing the best takeoff of your classic buck-and-wing that could be expected of a big, lanky fellow wearing heavy cowboy boots who has never had any formal training in classic ballet. Look at him go! He bops all the way across the dining room – and the performance does not end there. Charlie Moon’s hard heals and sharp toes echo across the hollowness of the parlor, where juniper flames snap and crackle in the stone fireplace. Has our hoofer shot his wad? Not a chance. Up the stairs he boogies, to the second floor, down the long hallway and through his bedroom door…
It is a fun read, no doubt about it. I just miss the old style I got in The Shaman Sings or The Shaman Laughs that were a blend of tribal police procedural and Ute mysticism. That was a potent combination and built the series. While Snake Dreams is a good tale it wasn’t the heady mix I was looking forward to.

Doss is expert at character development and you really come to know the characters. Doss’ ability to integrate humor throughout the entire story is practically an art form in itself. There was a twist at the end that was surprising since the reader believes all along that they know who murdered Mr. Wetzel, but did they really? 

For your convenience you may purchase this book here

Until Monday when meet again for another "My Musings" I wish you many mysterious moments.

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