Sinking Suspicions
by Sara Sue Hoklotubbe

University of Arizona Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0-816-53107-3.
Reviewed by Mary Jo Doig
Posted on 03/03/2015

Fiction: Multicultural; Fiction: Mystery

It's always a delight to discover a new cozy mystery series as engaging as Hoklotubbe's. This novel, her third in the Sadie Walela Mystery series, was my first meeting with this charming group of diverse characters: native born Oklahoman Cherokees and Hawaiians living on Maui. Along with these cultures, the author intersperses some World War II history.

The attractive book cover gives the reader an introduction to the place we'll find inside: rugged, sparse country with weathered buildings and an old pick-up truck, as well as colors and border decorations that hint at Native American ethnicity. We open the book to meet Sadie Walela, a young blue-eyed, half-blood contemporary American Cherokee woman who lives in a small Oklahoma town richly filled with Cherokee culture, folklore, and many other Cherokee people.

We learn that the previous year Sadie had opened a community restaurant, but is now seeking a different career; she has entered an apprenticeship to explore becoming a travel agent. Soon we travel with her on her first trip—to Maui, a warm, lovely environment in sharp contrast to Oklahoma.

Sadie leaves her horse, dog, and home in the good care of the town's Cherokee police chief, Lance. Sadie and Lance are committed but struggling at the moment with their couple-hood. Soon after she leaves, Sadie's neighbor, a retired Cherokee war veteran named Buck—who brought home an undiagnosed condition of PTSD from the war—disappears and Lance hurriedly begins to investigate. Frustrated by sparse clues, Lance becomes even more disturbed when a hurricane hits Maui and cuts off all communication with Sadie, whom he believes can help him with the investigation. Sadie, meanwhile, becomes engaged in a long-ago wartime mystery while in Maui.

The mysteries in each locale are well woven as these thoroughly enjoyable characters work away at each respective puzzle and uncover long buried threads.

Having read Sinking Suspicions, I now look forward to stepping back to read the first two novels. These were characters that I personally liked, looked forward to spending time with, and stretched me into interesting places far beyond my quiet country solitude. For me, Sinking Suspicions was a five star read.

Sara Sue Hoklotubbe is a Cherokee tribal citizen and author of the award-winning Sadie Walela Mystery Series. She grew up on the banks of Lake Eucha in northeastern Oklahoma and uses that location as the setting for her award-winning mystery novels to transport readers into modern-day Cherokee life. She and her husband live in Colorado. Visit her website.

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