3 out of 4 stars
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The Wounded Breed is a historical fiction book by James S. Kelly. It has elements of a crime novel which add action and suspense. The book is set in two time periods; one time setting is in the 1890s and the other is in the early 1900s.
The local barber is found hanging from a beam at the post office. His face is painted red, and he dressed in a Sioux ghost shirt. His lifeless body is eery as it swings in the wind above a tin cup which contains a lock of his hair. The town constable, Charles Little, decides that he is in over his head with this murder scene and enlists the help of Tommy Sanchez to decipher the clues. Tommy is mixed race, being the son of the great Sitting Bull. When three similar hangings occur, Tommy's family is associated with the murders. As he puts the pieces together, the hangings point to being an act of revenge for the brutality expressed by solders a decade ago at Wounded Knee.
The Wounded Breed has an interesting plot which easily stirs up the emotions of its readers. I have never felt as much empathy towards a culprit as I did in this book. The author gave the culprit such a compelling backstory that it was almost too easy to rationalize and justify his horrendous actions. I won't spoil the book by discussing the events that led the murderer, who is an otherwise upstanding citizen, to take such extreme measures of revenge. Rather, I'll let you read it to find out.
It took me a while to reconcile the language used by the characters and the time period. The characters sound as though they live in the present and not in the 1900s. This really detracted from the setting.
The main character, Tommy Sanchez, is portrayed as this tough, macho man who solves his problems through violence. Some readers might enjoy this aspect of the book, but I thought this only fictionalized his character further. It made him unrealistic, and in my opinion, unlikeable.
Despite all this, I did enjoy this book. It presents the injustice that both natives and whites were faced with. It educates while entertaining. Thus, I rate it 3 out of 4 stars. I recommend it to crime novel fans. The process Tommy takes to decipher the clues at a time when forensics were limited was interesting. Like I said, the time setting was not well depicted, so I doubt that historical fiction lovers will enjoy it.
The Wounded Breed
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