The Witch’s Tongue

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Ute tribal investigator and licensed private detective Charlie Moon finds himself involved in several criminal cases at once, but maybe they are all connected. There seems to be no end to mystery on the Southern Ute reservation, including stolen “corpse powder,” a grave without a body in it (or perhaps first one and then another), and strange visions of flying spirits around a black protruding shelf of granite called the Witch’s Tongue.

In the opening scene, Jacob Gourd Rattle is digging what appears to be a burial spot in the remote canyons and mesas of Southern Colorado. His wife, called Kicks Dog, reports that her husband is missing. Rich and cantankerous old Jane Cassidy wants to hire Charlie to recover stolen rare coins and precious cameos worth millions of dollars. An Apache attacks a white police officer, and the officer bites off his attacker’s nose. A rotting corpse is found in a van parked in a garage. Charlie Moon’s poker buddy, Ralph Biggs, is shot while Charlie is standing beside him. As though such problems were not enough, the woman Charlie is about to propose to walks out on him. Much of the solution to the crimes is given at the end of the novel via a videotaped interview with one of the suspects--but Charlie knew long before that.

Reclusive old shaman Daisy Perika, Charlie Moon’s aunt, is involved in the action, as she is in other books in the series, and she and Charlie and the local priest, a friend of Daisy’s who is about to retire, get the final scene. It is a beautiful and touching conclusion to the novel, a memorable commentary on life and death.