Winter Counts
“Winter Counts is a marvel. It’s a thriller with a beating heart and jagged teeth. This book is a brilliant meditation on power and violence, and a testament to just how much a crime novel can achieve. Weiden is a powerful new voice. I couldn’t put it down.”  —Tommy Orange, author of There ThereA Recommended Read from: Buzzfeed * Electric Literature * Lit Hub * Shondaland * Publishers Weekly A groundbreaking thriller about a vigilante on a Native American reservation who embarks on a dangerous mission to track down the source of a heroin influx. Virgil Wounded Horse is the local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  When justice is denied by the American legal system or the tribal council, Virgil is hired to deliver his own punishment, the kind that’s hard to forget. But when heroin makes its way into the reservation and finds Virgil’s nephew, his vigilantism suddenly becomes personal. He enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend and sets out to learn where the drugs are coming from, and how to make them stop.They follow a lead to Denver and find that drug cartels are rapidly expanding and forming new and terrifying alliances. And back on the reservation, a new tribal council initiative raises uncomfortable questions about money and power. As Virgil starts to link the pieces together, he must face his own demons and reclaim his Native identity. He realizes that being a Native American in the twenty-first century comes at an incredible cost.Winter Counts is a tour-de-force of crime fiction, a bracingly honest look at a long-ignored part of American life, and a twisting, turning story that’s as deeply rendered as it is thrilling.

Winter Counts Details

TitleWinter Counts
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseAug 25th, 2020
PublisherEcco
ISBN-139780062968944
Rating
GenreMystery, Fiction, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Crime, Contemporary, Adult, Adult Fiction, Audiobook, Suspense

Winter Counts Review

  • Chelsea Humphrey
    January 1, 1970
    "Winter counts were the calendar system used by the Lakota, but they weren't like modern ones. I'd loved the little pictures in the calendars, each image showing the most significant event from the past year.If you are a lover of slow burning, character driven crime fiction, please halt your scroll and immediately add Winter Counts to your 2020 TBR. I know that time and money are limited resources for many readers these days, but I highly recommend planning ahead and making this book a priority "Winter counts were the calendar system used by the Lakota, but they weren't like modern ones. I'd loved the little pictures in the calendars, each image showing the most significant event from the past year.If you are a lover of slow burning, character driven crime fiction, please halt your scroll and immediately add Winter Counts to your 2020 TBR. I know that time and money are limited resources for many readers these days, but I highly recommend planning ahead and making this book a priority if it is within your realm of reading preferences. As a privileged white woman, I'm always actively seeking out books beyond my personal scope of experience, and it's surprisingly hard to find Indigenous crime fiction written by Indigenous authors! This debut blew my expectations out of the water, and managed to provide an educational experience to readers unfamiliar with Indigenous, and more specifically Lakota, ways, while also throwing out a gripping, heart-pounding plot."Back in the time before Columbus, there were only Indians here, no skyscrapers, no automobiles, no streets. Of course, we didn't use the words Indian or Native American then; we were just people. We didn't know we were supposedly drunks or lazy or savages. I wondered what it was like to live without that weight on your shoulders, the weight of the murdered ancestors, the stolen land, the abused children, the burden every Native person carried."Winter Counts introduces us to Virgil Wounded Horse, a bit of a pariah within the perimeters of his reservation, but also a man with skills that the other residents find necessary. Virgil is the person you call when the American government has failed you; when the FBI chooses not to prosecute those committing rape, abuse, theft, and murder on Indigenous land, you hire Virgil as muscle to deliver the justice you are owed. When word spreads that someone has been selling heroin on the reservation and local teenagers are overdosing, one of the council members hires Virgil to take care of the problem. Teaming up with his ex-girlfriend, Virgil decides to take on the case when the epidemic hits too close to home. While the mystery behind the drug problem is certainly engaging and entertaining, I found the real beauty of this story is the deep look we get into Virgil and his demons. As a biracial man, he isn't fully excepted into his community, but also isn't awarded the privilege associated with the half of him that is white either. This struggle of finding belonging in a world that had been stacked against him is peppered throughout the criminal investigation, but these personal touches are clearly what makes the story shine bright amongst a sea of mundane mysteries. There are even prejudices within the reservation, classism and elitism and privilege based on your family, and Virgil also deals with past loss, a faith that has failed him, and religion tied into cultural practice and beliefs. I don't want to give anything away, but the way that this story wrapped up was beautiful and tinged with just the right amount of bittersweet sadness. As I am unsure if this is truly a standalone, or the beginning of a new series, I will say that I would follow Virgil on future adventures if the author so chose to create them. Highly, highly recommended!! *Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy.
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  • Fran
    January 1, 1970
    Lakota winter counts are documents of recorded history. "Usually drawn on buffalo skins or deer hide, Lakota winter counts are comprised of pictographs organized in spiral or horizontal rows...Waniyeti is the Lakota word for year, which is measured from first snow to first snow". -Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center"By federal law, tribal police couldn't prosecute any federal crimes that happened on the rez. A murder on the rez in 1880's...the killer was banished, but not jailed...upset by the Lakota winter counts are documents of recorded history. "Usually drawn on buffalo skins or deer hide, Lakota winter counts are comprised of pictographs organized in spiral or horizontal rows...Waniyeti is the Lakota word for year, which is measured from first snow to first snow". -Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center"By federal law, tribal police couldn't prosecute any federal crimes that happened on the rez. A murder on the rez in 1880's...the killer was banished, but not jailed...upset by the Native way of justice...a law [was passed] taking away our right to punish our own people". On Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, Virgil Wounded Horse is a vigilante for hire, an enforcer. In Virgil's words, "I'd been hired to beat the hell out of Guv Yellowback [gym teacher] by the father of the little girl at the school. He had raped her. The school had refused to take any action. Tribal police couldn't do anything."Virgil Wounded Horse, half-Lakota, was adrift, caught between two cultures. "I didn't feel any mystical bond with the rez...unpaved roads and our falling-down houses...good kids, decent kids-got involved with drugs and crime...there was nothing for them to do here...why not leave...get a job and make a clean break...putting aside Native ways and assimilating...the sound of the drummers at a powwow, the smell of wild sage...could I ever really leave the reservation?...".Virgil was a reformed alcoholic. He lived with his fourteen year old nephew, Nathan. Nathan's mother had died in a car accident. "I'd quit drinking for good. The money I saved would pay for Nathan's college". Like most teenagers, Nathan had become secretive, more distant...tragedy strikes...Nathan overdoses on heroin, a free "hit" made available to him.Virgil's ex-girlfriend, Marie, was the daughter of Ben Short Bear, a candidate for Tribal President. Marie's parents were upwardly mobile, sought prestige. Marie was expected to reach for the stars, become a doctor...her parent's dream. She'd attended tribal college studying Lakota language and culture. She currently worked for the commodity food program. Marie was learning how to prepare indigenous, healthy cuisine.A sweep of Nathan's school locker...an arrest...possible long term jail sentence. Ben Short Bear wanted Virgil to "take out" those instrumental in bringing heroin to the reservation. He offers Virgil a substantial payday for "setting Rick Crow straight". Removing drugs has now become personal for Virgil, with Nathan's life in the balance. Marie insists on working with him and has ideas of her own where to find and how to handle Rick and other suppliers."Winter Counts" by David Heska Wanbli Weiden is a character driven crime thriller, a debut by Weiden, an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota nation. This fast-paced, gritty tome involves the collaboration of the FBI, the Tribal police and Virgil, who is determined to clear Nathan of wrongdoing. Support from Marie Short Bear and many secondary players was invaluable. These players were well characterized.Virgil felt that Native traditions-the ceremonies, prayers, teaching- were empty rituals... but"...one day, the words my mother used to say finally came to me...Wakan Tanka nici un. May the Creator guide you".This reader anxiously awaits the next offering in the series with Virgil Wounded Horse. Highly recommended!Thank you HarperCollins Publishers and Net Galley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Linda
    January 1, 1970
    "Become the spark that lights the fire and then burn, burn with intensity and purpose because only as ashes shall you rise." (Bernice Angoh Lakota)Winter Counts encompasses those embers that smolder from within. The flame reflects the initiative of the individual as well as the depth and the forcefulness exhibited by the very people themselves. Dare we even imagine the generations upon generations of the Sicangu Lakota who came before these times. Dare we to even know the inner thoughts and the "Become the spark that lights the fire and then burn, burn with intensity and purpose because only as ashes shall you rise." (Bernice Angoh Lakota)Winter Counts encompasses those embers that smolder from within. The flame reflects the initiative of the individual as well as the depth and the forcefulness exhibited by the very people themselves. Dare we even imagine the generations upon generations of the Sicangu Lakota who came before these times. Dare we to even know the inner thoughts and the life experiences of a Great People who respectfully treasure the Lakota ways.David Heska Wanbli Weiden creates a multi-faceted view into a deeply drawn existence familiar to those who live on Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He sets the parallels of ancient honored times of the past with the harsh realities of present life encountered day-by-day on the reservation. But it is through the hard-hitting inner dialogue of these characters that we get a glimpse into lifestyles so unfamiliar to us......to unspeakable injustices that have become a way of life for others. Virgil Wounded Horse has become a boiling cauldron of emotions that overflow and seem to suffocate his soul. He lost his parents some time back and he and his sister, Sybil, created a calendar system of symbols depicting their inner feelings. Virgil would visit that tender place within, once again, when his sister dies in an auto accident. He takes it upon himself to raise his young orphaned fourteen year old nephew, Nathan. With highly charged resentment, Virgil tries to extinguish the Lakota ways. His emptiness seems to limit himself when it comes to Nathan. But he does love the boy and still feels that bond with his sister.Virgil is a master at carrying out the revenge of others. It is noted that the tribal police are limited in their capacity and can't prosecute felony crimes on the reservation. The legal system is almost non-existent and the Feds rarely make an appearance. Rape and murder occur often. Virgil's pent-up emotions serve him well as he is hired to carry out secret payback for those crimes. Serious drugs have made their way onto the reservation with black tar heroin and opiods. Virgil is hired by a tribal councilman to trace their source. His investigation takes him to Denver and to a world more dangerous than he ever imagined. That danger will seep into the crevices aligning Virgil's own life.Winter Counts has depth and breadth and burns slowly as we enter into these lives. Know that going in. It is an intense character study that reveals the inner workings of those existing in a way of life that leads to honor at its highest point and frustration at its lowest point. Thanks to David Heska Wanbli Weiden we hear the powerful winds across the fields and the echoing of the voices of those who need to be heard.I received a copy of Winter Counts through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Harper Collins Publishers and to the talented David Heska Wanbli Weiden for the opportunity.
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  • Dani
    January 1, 1970
    I don’t read much crime fiction (hint: it’s closer to none.) There’s no particular reason other than it just has never been a drama I turn to and I think I know why: there is not a lot of Indigenous authored crime fiction. I’ve discovered I will read ANY genre as long as it’s written by a Native author.The Goodreads Top 50 Native American mystery novels list only contains one Indigenous author. Tony Hillerman is a popular crime fiction novelist whose novels often pop up on such lists, he has bee I don’t read much crime fiction (hint: it’s closer to none.) There’s no particular reason other than it just has never been a drama I turn to and I think I know why: there is not a lot of Indigenous authored crime fiction. I’ve discovered I will read ANY genre as long as it’s written by a Native author.The Goodreads Top 50 Native American mystery novels list only contains one Indigenous author. Tony Hillerman is a popular crime fiction novelist whose novels often pop up on such lists, he has been quoted as saying. “ “I know a hell of a lot more about the Navajo culture than most Navajos do. They’re like the average Kiwanian, the average guy you’d run into on the street. Ask him about his religion and he’ll refer you to a preacher. Most Navajos are the same way.”Sigh. Then in walks Winter Counts by Sicangu Lakota author David Heska Wanbli Weiden and saves my day. I loved everything about this novel. The setting, the characters, the Lakota culture, the storyline, all of it worked for me and I could absolutely not stop reaching for this book. Not only did I find it entertaining, humorous, endearing and well written- I found it touched on many important issues that affect Indigenous people trying to decolonize while living in a colonized society that was built upon systemic racism on stolen Native land.Novels like this are important to me. Not only are they entertaining readers while providing invaluable insights into the issues Indigenous people face, they are also establishing space for Indigenous authors in a genre where there are far too many white voices where they do not belong. Winter Counts is available for purchase on August 25, 2020. I strongly recommend you set a reminder for this one. Read it. Support Native authors. Miigwech
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  • Anna Luce
    January 1, 1970
    3 ¼ stars “Winter counts. This was the winter of my sorrow, one I had tried to elude but which had come for me with a terrible cruelty.” Winter Counts is a compelling debut novel. Although this book uses elements and tropes of the thriller genre, the narrative isn’t solely focused on its 'loner vigilante vs. bad guys' storyline (which is perhaps the novel’s weakest aspect). In fact, throughout the course of his narrative, David Heska Wanbli Weiden sheds light on America's past and present syste 3 ¼ stars “Winter counts. This was the winter of my sorrow, one I had tried to elude but which had come for me with a terrible cruelty.” Winter Counts is a compelling debut novel. Although this book uses elements and tropes of the thriller genre, the narrative isn’t solely focused on its 'loner vigilante vs. bad guys' storyline (which is perhaps the novel’s weakest aspect). In fact, throughout the course of his narrative, David Heska Wanbli Weiden sheds light on America's past and present systemic oppression of Native people.Usually, I'm more of a character over setting kind of reader but not with Winter Counts. Weiden renders Virgil's community, Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, in a very evocative way. While Weiden doesn't shy away from delving into the everyday injustices and/or bleak circumstances of those who are living on the reservation (alcoholism, drugs, mental illnesses, poverty), he also shows how important, and ultimately life-affirming, traditional practices and beliefs are. When we first meet Virgil he seems to be removed from his own culture. Many on the reservation have treated poorly for being a "half-breed" and the death of his closest relatives has left him alone. Or almost alone as after the death of his sister he has become the sole carer of his nephew, Nathan. When the local council and American's legal system let pedophiles and sex offenders go unpunished, Virgil is the one you hire.“When the legal system broke down like this, people came to me. For a few hundred bucks they’d get some measure of revenge. My contribution to the justice system.”His work as a vigilante has earned him a bit of a reputation and soured his relationship with his now ex, Marie. When Virgil receives an offer from Marie's father, a tribal councilman, he's hesitant to take the job. Someone is bringing heroin into their community and young people are overdosing. Virgil believes that this is one of the few cases that the feds will actually pursue (unlike the “sex assault cases, thefts, assault and battery” cases that the tribal court refers to them) so doesn't see the point in involving himself...that is until heroin finds Nathan.Virgil is forced to collaborate with the same people who have time and again failed his people, and finds himself rekindling his relationship with Marie, who is eager to help her community.The strongest moments in this novel are the ones that are less-action—or suspense—fuelled. Those scenes in which characters are talking about Lakota customs, beliefs, and language were the more poignant and interesting moments in the narrative. Marie was perhaps the most compelling character in the novel, as her desire to improve life on the rez actually begins to break through Virgil's more pessimistic worldview.Part of me wishes that this book had not employed a first pov as Virgil's narration didn't really add any layers to his character (his conversations with others and actions give a clear impression of what kind of person he is). The first pov seemed kind of restrictive as in more than one occasion I found myself wanting to read from Nathan and Marie's perspectives (perhaps because I felt more connected to them than Virgil). Virgil's narration was also kind of repetitive. His inner monologue often consisted in repeating information that had been previously related through dialogue (Weiden, trust your readers!). As I said, Weiden excels at setting. Even those scenes that take place outside the rez, were vividly depicted. Weiden takes a very straight-forward approach when discussing, depicting, or touching up on issues such as the racism and injustices, as well as the many legal and societal biases, Native people experience, the ramifications of colonialism, and generational trauma. Although there are some violent scenes at the beginning and in the final act of the novel, Weiden demonstrate extreme empathy when recounting the Wounded Knee Massacre.I also appreciate that during the course of the story Virgil, Marie, and Nathan are struggling to do the 'right' thing. At times their efforts to do good are misunderstood or miss the mark. Marie in particular is placed in a particularly difficult position.The characterisation of the main bad guy (whose identity won't be all that surprising to readers of thrillers) leaves a lot to be desired. Some of the side characters could have benefitted from some more 'page-time' but they nevertheless felt more dimensional than our 'villain'.Overall, I think this was a very solid debut novel. While I wasn't all that taken by the thriller storyline (which was formulaic), I did find Weiden's portrayal of Virgil's community, as well as his relationship with Nathan and Marie, to be gripping. Thankfully the story doesn't solely focus on action, and we get plenty of scenes in which characters discuss their circumstances and future. ps: I listened to the audiobook which is expertly narrated by Darrell Dennis (his voice probably made me like Virgil more than I would have if I'd read the book myself).
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  • Jessica Woodbury
    January 1, 1970
    I often start my reviews of crime novels by identifying the type of protagonist. It tells you a lot about the book, and a lot of books use the same handful of tired tropes. WINTER COUNTS has the "tough guy" protagonist, usually enough to send me running in the opposite direction. But the thing about these character types isn't that they're inherently bad, it's that they're just so poorly and lazily executed much of the time. This isn't one of those times. Usually the tough guy is past rock botto I often start my reviews of crime novels by identifying the type of protagonist. It tells you a lot about the book, and a lot of books use the same handful of tired tropes. WINTER COUNTS has the "tough guy" protagonist, usually enough to send me running in the opposite direction. But the thing about these character types isn't that they're inherently bad, it's that they're just so poorly and lazily executed much of the time. This isn't one of those times. Usually the tough guy is past rock bottom and the book traces his path back up to goodness/stability/whatever. He is always going "back" to the good life he squandered because he's not really "that guy" blah blah blah. WINTER COUNTS isn't that kind of story.Virgil Wounded Horse is a tough guy because it's basically his only option. He isn't there because he ruined a good life. He's there because of the elaborate, systemic oppression of the Lakota people on his reservation. By the end of the book you'll be intimately acquainted with life "on the res" and how just getting off of it doesn't actually fix any of the problems. There aren't that many options for Virgil, and law enforcement on the reservation is basically nonexistent, so there's a demand for a vigilante. Especially one who takes some pleasure in inflicting pain on bad guys. Things get complicated when his ex's father, a politician and one of the few well-off Lakota, asks him to look into an old bully of Virgil's who he says is bringing heroin into the reservation. Virgil is suspicious about it, but when it becomes clear that heroin is actually infiltrating the community, he takes the job.Virgil is expertly done. He is just as tough as he should be, has real soft spots and vulnerabilities, but isn't much of an optimist. He doesn't make plans for the future but he's no longer a self-destructive alcoholic. He doesn't participate much in the tribal religious practices but he has good reasons for it. He is the guardian to his teenage nephew and worries about him constantly, trying to keep his life stable but also keeping some distance out of fear and doubt. The plot moves at a pretty steady clip and I particularly enjoyed how there are several parts of the book that don't impact the central mystery at all, just scenes of Virgil living his life, building our understanding of character and setting while never distracting too much from the big plot. (Particularly enjoyed a tangent chapter spent at Casa Bonita, that Denver institution that any kid who grew up within a couple hours of it is intimately familiar with.) The supporting characters really get to grow and develop along with Virgil.We don't have a lot of crime fiction from authors of color at all, and Indigenous/Native representation is particularly bad so this is a very welcome addition. It gives a fuller and deeper picture of Native life than we typically see in books by white authors that include Native characters. This is gritty enough that I suspect fans of Don Winslow would enjoy it, and I bet readers of Craig Johnson's Longmire series and C. J. Box would like it, too. I actually can't really think of a type of mystery reader I wouldn't recommend it to except those who can't handle violence. There is a decent amount of descriptive violence, much discussion of drug use, and a lot of casual references to pretty terrible crimes happening on the reservation (sexual assault, violence, suicide) though they're generally off the page. I hope we see a lot more from the author.
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  • Michelle
    January 1, 1970
    Wow, wow, wow. This was an excellent debut! From reading the summary of this book and previously reading There There, I thought I had an idea of what would be in these pages. I was wrong. No matter who the writer or population discussed is, the very bleak, but important issues in these pages of drug abuse and economic poverty was something that I previously would have moved away from reading about. As I grow and mature as a reader, I am trying really hard to diversify what I read and and also su Wow, wow, wow. This was an excellent debut! From reading the summary of this book and previously reading There There, I thought I had an idea of what would be in these pages. I was wrong. No matter who the writer or population discussed is, the very bleak, but important issues in these pages of drug abuse and economic poverty was something that I previously would have moved away from reading about. As I grow and mature as a reader, I am trying really hard to diversify what I read and and also support #ownvoices authors. So, it was with a little trepidation that I started this on Saturday morning. Thankfully, the little voice that told me to read this was rewarded. The pages went by so fast that I finished it by Sunday night. This is crime fiction at its best and it should appeal to all different types of mystery/crime/thriller fans. There were no superfluous story lines mixed in, there was no agenda - this was just a great piece of writing. The author masterfully crafted this story and gave the characters life. You knew the what and why behind everything that made each person apart of this story. You rooted for all of them. The author accomplished everything he set out to do in his author's note. He educated on Indigenous Peoples (particularly the Lakota tribe), he told a heartbreaking story, but he also told a story of resilience and strength through the odds. I can't quite articulate how much I urge you to read this. Besides it being a really great book, it is a breakout in crime fiction, which desperately needs more diversity in its ranks. My hope is that this will become a series. Thanks so much to Ecco Books and David Heska Wanbli Weiden for the print copy to read and provide an honest review.Review Date: 08/24/2020Publication Date: 08/25/2020
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  • Erin || erins_library
    January 1, 1970
    (Gifted from Ecco Books)⠀“The tribal police couldn’t do anything. The feds prosecuted all felony crimes on the rez, and they didn’t mess with any crime short of murder.”⠀I was reading this book right when the landmark McGirt vs. Oklahoma Supreme Court decision was made this month. I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect book, because the biggest moving factor was the relationship (or lack there of) between The Rosebud Indian Reservation and the FBI. Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden (Sica (Gifted from Ecco Books)⠀“The tribal police couldn’t do anything. The feds prosecuted all felony crimes on the rez, and they didn’t mess with any crime short of murder.”⠀I was reading this book right when the landmark McGirt vs. Oklahoma Supreme Court decision was made this month. I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect book, because the biggest moving factor was the relationship (or lack there of) between The Rosebud Indian Reservation and the FBI. Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden (Sicangu Lakota) is a crime novel that touches on a very real issue that doesn’t get enough visibility. Our main character Virgil Wounded Knee acts as a hired vigilante when the American legal system fails to investigate and protect the community. The story also seamlessly integrated lateral violence, grief, money & power, and more. Weiden has created a visceral, 3-dimensional world that we could step right into.⠀I also found myself thinking a lot about the characters and the conflicts within themselves. Virgil is introduced to us as the tough guy enacting justice, but you quickly realize it’s a cover for his vulnerabilities. He confronts the trauma of his past, and begins to see that mirrored in his nephew Nathan. Nathan is in pain, trying to do his best to cope on his own. And Marie is torn between pursuing a western education and the validity of Indigenous knowledge to serve her community. And I don’t think their stories are done. I could see this being the beginning of a series.⠀I love all Indigenous literature, but I get particularly excited when it’s genre fiction (ie horror, romance, thriller, fantasy, scifi, etc.). And crime fiction in particular has been lacking in representation by Native authors. I’d love to see more of it, because it is a great genre to explore and learn about very real issues in Indigenous communities. My people (and most Alaska Native people) don’t reside on reservations, so I appreciated Weiden’s work in raising awareness. Especially as crime on reservations is something that I was aware of, but haven’t experienced firsthand.⠀CW: drug use, overdosing, violence, brief mention of sexual assault/rape
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  • Sallie Dunn
    January 1, 1970
    Let me start with a thank you to Netgalley and Harper Collins for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I thoroughly enjoyed the action in this crime novel that is set in the present day on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Virgil Wounded Horse is a “half-breed” Lakota Indian who mostly makes his living as a hired thug. He has guardianship of his 14 year old nephew because Virgil’s sister died in a car crash several years before the story opens. Nathan gets mixed up with drugs Let me start with a thank you to Netgalley and Harper Collins for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. I thoroughly enjoyed the action in this crime novel that is set in the present day on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Virgil Wounded Horse is a “half-breed” Lakota Indian who mostly makes his living as a hired thug. He has guardianship of his 14 year old nephew because Virgil’s sister died in a car crash several years before the story opens. Nathan gets mixed up with drugs and the story moves forward from there. As the story fleshes out, the reader is made aware of many of the social issues that make life so difficult for Native Americans in America today. The result was eye-opening yet presented in an action packed tale. I think this book would appeal to a wide range of readers. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
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  • Jamie Canaves
    January 1, 1970
    I especially loved two things about this novel: the characters and the setting. You realize how starved we are for certain stories and voices when publishing finally tosses you one. It’s like finally getting a drink in the desert, and as soon as you’re done you’re like give me so much more. That’s how I felt with this mystery, which I could not put down.Virgil Wounded Horse lives in South Dakota on the Rosebud Indian Reservation and makes a living off of a legal loophole of sorts. The local poli I especially loved two things about this novel: the characters and the setting. You realize how starved we are for certain stories and voices when publishing finally tosses you one. It’s like finally getting a drink in the desert, and as soon as you’re done you’re like give me so much more. That’s how I felt with this mystery, which I could not put down.Virgil Wounded Horse lives in South Dakota on the Rosebud Indian Reservation and makes a living off of a legal loophole of sorts. The local police are only allowed to handle certain cases and everything else must be passed on to the FBI. The problem in this is that the FBI does not take all the cases, which leaves many criminals, from predators to robbers, unpunished. That’s where Virgil comes in: people pay him to basically beat the snot out of criminals who fall through the cracks. He’s also raising his nephew since his sister passed away and is the only family left. Because he’s responsible for not just himself anymore, he toys with taking a high paying job to investigate who is bringing in drugs to the reservation. He’s reluctant for a slew of reasons including it’s his ex-girlfriend’s father hiring him. But when the case hits close to home he’s left without much option. That’s how he finds himself paired up with his ex-girlfriend, and the FBI, to find out what is happening.I absolutely loved Virgil, the vigilante for hire, as he’s cleaned up his life but still struggles to find his place. He’s introspective, curious, and also listens. A great contrast in his partnership with his ex who has lived a privileged life and is also in different ways struggling to find her place. I also loved the balance of seeing many different characters’ lives, and voices, on and off the reservation. A great mystery with excellent characters–everything you want in a crime novel! (TW addiction/ mentions suicides, one with detail/ past rapes including children mentioned, not graphic/ child death/ pedophile, crimes off page/ fat shaming)from: https://bookriot.com/2020/03/06/eerie...andBook Riot's Unusual Suspects newsletter: https://link.bookriot.com/view/56a820...
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  • Bookreporter.com Mystery & Thriller
    January 1, 1970
    David Heska Wanbli Weiden has given us a remarkable debut novel with the publication of WINTER COUNTS. This Native noir gem introduces an interesting and complex protagonist in Virgil Wounded Horse, who refuses to conform to the expectations of what is and what is not a 21st-century Native American. Add a right-now, real-world problem as an anchor for the plot, and the result is a one-sit read that will leave you wanting more.Virgil Wounded Horse is a self-styled enforcer on the Rosebud Indian R David Heska Wanbli Weiden has given us a remarkable debut novel with the publication of WINTER COUNTS. This Native noir gem introduces an interesting and complex protagonist in Virgil Wounded Horse, who refuses to conform to the expectations of what is and what is not a 21st-century Native American. Add a right-now, real-world problem as an anchor for the plot, and the result is a one-sit read that will leave you wanting more.Virgil Wounded Horse is a self-styled enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Due to large and quite frankly inexcusable gaps in jurisdiction between federal law enforcement and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, there are any number of “minor” offenses that go unrecognized and escape justice. Virgil fills that gap memorably, effectively and violently. Things get close to him when heroin starts showing up on the reservation from an unknown source. Worse, his orphaned teenaged nephew Nathan gets into the mix when he overdoses, almost fatally.That immediately puts Virgil, accompanied by his ex-girlfriend, Marie Short Bear, on the road to Denver, where an Indian with a bad prior history with Virgil has hooked up with a drug-dealing gang. They can’t locate him but do find trouble when Nathan, while still recuperating from the overdose, is arrested for possession after his school locker is found to have enough street drugs to put him away for years on a federal rap. A deal is put together with the assistance of a veteran criminal lawyer, and Virgil has deep regrets about letting his nephew get involved. However, he has little choice, given the potential sentence that Nathan faces, even as he vehemently denies that he ever had drugs in his locker.While attempting to manage Nathan’s situation, Virgil and Marie also discover a potential problem for the reservation involving embezzlement of federal funds, which in turn later dovetail back to their primary problem: drug dealing on Rosebud and how it relates to Nathan. Everything goes wrong before it goes right; in the end, though, not everything goes right either.Weiden saves plenty of surprises and the majority of the violence for the final quarter of the book. He does an exceptional job of matter-of-factly describing the cringe-inducing poverty rampant on the reservation, which may well (and should) make readers appreciative of their own situation, however dire it might seem. Weiden also treats his audience like grown-ups, tossing out Indian terms in the vernacular so that one might spend some time digging up interpretive meanings of individual words, as well as using online slang dictionaries. For example, you will discover what an “apple” and an “Oreo” have in common (Oreos, of course, taste better and come in more flavors).Immersing a reader in unfamiliar terms isn’t a bad thing, but it might break the reading flow for some. A separate glossary included in the next installment of the series might be helpful. And, yes, I am hoping that there will be a book two and more beyond that. I made a small list of potential subjects for future Virgil novels --- not that Weiden needs me or anyone else for help --- which includes the effects of casinos on reservations; the acquisition of property into Indian trusts; and the reprehensible failure to investigate or even keep track of the disappearance of Native women on the United States-Canadian border, a state of affairs that has been ongoing for centuries.I may be expecting a lot on the basis of WINTER COUNTS (and that term is memorably explained within the covers), but Weiden is more than capable of exceeding my hopes.Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
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  • Doreen
    January 1, 1970
    8/12/2020 Hoping that the ginormous plot hole towards the end was plugged before this hit the printers for the actual pub date. Full review tk at CriminalElement.com.8/18/2020 The publicist was kind enough to send me a copy which fixed the plot hole! I'm so pleased! Look out for my glowing review next week. 8/12/2020 Hoping that the ginormous plot hole towards the end was plugged before this hit the printers for the actual pub date. Full review tk at CriminalElement.com.8/18/2020 The publicist was kind enough to send me a copy which fixed the plot hole! I'm so pleased! Look out for my glowing review next week.
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  • Sarah-Hope
    January 1, 1970
    Winter Counts is a mystery novel that doesn't just have a mystery. It's also truly a novel—with complex, engaging characters, a rich backstory, and multiple well-crafted plot lines. Much of Winter Counts is set on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, which is home to the novel's central characters. At the novel's heart is Virgil Wounded Horse, an "enforcer" who enacts justice when neither the tribal police nor the federal agents are able—or willing—to act. He's raising his nephew whos Winter Counts is a mystery novel that doesn't just have a mystery. It's also truly a novel—with complex, engaging characters, a rich backstory, and multiple well-crafted plot lines. Much of Winter Counts is set on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, which is home to the novel's central characters. At the novel's heart is Virgil Wounded Horse, an "enforcer" who enacts justice when neither the tribal police nor the federal agents are able—or willing—to act. He's raising his nephew whose mother, Virgil's sister, was killed in a car crash. Virgil has been asked to look into the arrival of heroin on the reservation, but is ambivalent about the case until, as they say, it becomes personal. At that point, he finds himself headed to Denver to look for a man who may be involved in the drug trafficking. Virgil's ex-girlfriend Marie insists on accompanying because she knows the man Virgil is looking for.Having grown up bullied and experiencing first-hand the things traditional sacred practices can't heal, Virgil's discarded much of the culture he was raised in—but now, tracking the drug dealers and protecting his extended family and community, he's having to reexamine his choices.Winter Counts is both thoughtful and action-packed, a highly rewarding read. The novel works beautifully as a stand-alone, but I find myself hoping I'll meet Virgil in print again sometime soon.
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  • BookTrib.com
    January 1, 1970
    WINTER COUNTS is a remarkable, propulsive crime thriller filled with rich characters, a vivid sense of place and big questions about identity, race, culture and violence. It not only draws you into its own complex, haunting world — it makes you look at your own in an entirely new way.Read the full review and interview with the author here:https://booktrib.com/2020/08/28/vigil... WINTER COUNTS is a remarkable, propulsive crime thriller filled with rich characters, a vivid sense of place and big questions about identity, race, culture and violence. It not only draws you into its own complex, haunting world — it makes you look at your own in an entirely new way.Read the full review and interview with the author here:https://booktrib.com/2020/08/28/vigil...
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  • Beverly
    January 1, 1970
    I normally don’t write reviews, but I got a pre-pub of this title. I don’t read usually crime fiction, and I read this because I was interested by a book written by a Native American author, with a Native American protagonist, and set on a reservation. This is definitely a “tough guy who has to live outside the law” narrative. I was personally more engrossed in the plot twists and learning random Lakota culture than Virgil beating the crap out of people. As someone who doesn’t read a lot of the I normally don’t write reviews, but I got a pre-pub of this title. I don’t read usually crime fiction, and I read this because I was interested by a book written by a Native American author, with a Native American protagonist, and set on a reservation. This is definitely a “tough guy who has to live outside the law” narrative. I was personally more engrossed in the plot twists and learning random Lakota culture than Virgil beating the crap out of people. As someone who doesn’t read a lot of the genre, it had enough to hold my interest. I think it’ll satisfy your average crime reader, too.
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  • Kayla Frazee
    January 1, 1970
    Nothing bad here, but nothing life changing either. We got a story with no real beginning, no middle, just an end. It felt less like the characters and story were evolving and more like things just happening, for no rhyme or reason, in order.
  • Molly Huff
    January 1, 1970
    Wow this book is so good and gripping and gritty and GOOD. I haven't finished it yet but it's gonna be a 5 star review from me. Winter Counts is coming out in August, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for an #ownvoices Native American read. Virgil Wounded Horse is the resident fixer for his reservation in South Dakota; what federal and local law enforcement won't do for his community, he will--be it protection, investigation, or punishment. When his reservation becomes inundated with h Wow this book is so good and gripping and gritty and GOOD. I haven't finished it yet but it's gonna be a 5 star review from me. Winter Counts is coming out in August, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for an #ownvoices Native American read. Virgil Wounded Horse is the resident fixer for his reservation in South Dakota; what federal and local law enforcement won't do for his community, he will--be it protection, investigation, or punishment. When his reservation becomes inundated with heroin and he learns it's being dealt from the local high school, with his young nephew being caught in the middle, Virgil goes on a journey to bring the individuals responsible to justice and try to find some peace to his people..Virgil is an awesome anti-hero, and the commentaries running throughout this novel regarding gentrification, capitalism, and the oppression and simultaneous white-washing and commodification (just go with it, k?) of Native American people are so on point and powerful. This is @wanbliweiden 's debut fiction novel (he has also written a biography of the Lakota leader Spotted Tail) and I cannot wait to read whatever comes next. As always thank you to @netgalley and @harpercollins for this ARC.
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  • Viccy
    January 1, 1970
    Virgil Wounded Horse is an enforcer on the Rosebud Rez in South Dakota. The tribal police are a joke and the Feds have no interest in maintaining order, they just want the glory of sensational arrests. Virgil takes care of those rapes, and thefts, and bullying that are the everyday crimes; he wields a baseball bat; a Glock and a Smith and Wesson. Virgil is a man adrift, caught between two cultures. His nephew, Nathan, lives with him since Virgil's sister was killed in a head-on collision. But he Virgil Wounded Horse is an enforcer on the Rosebud Rez in South Dakota. The tribal police are a joke and the Feds have no interest in maintaining order, they just want the glory of sensational arrests. Virgil takes care of those rapes, and thefts, and bullying that are the everyday crimes; he wields a baseball bat; a Glock and a Smith and Wesson. Virgil is a man adrift, caught between two cultures. His nephew, Nathan, lives with him since Virgil's sister was killed in a head-on collision. But heroin is engulfing the rez and Nathan overdoses. He manages to survive and Virgil and his on-again, 0ff-again girlfriend, Marie Short Bear, travel to Denver to see if they can track down Rick Crow who is the local contact for the Aztec Kingz, who are trafficking the heroin. He has been hired by Marie's father, Ben Short Bear, to find Rick Crow and mete out justice. But things get complicated when Nathan is arrested by the Feds on charges of distributing narcotics on the rez and he has to agree to wearing a wire to help the Feds bust the heroin ring. Things go horribly wrong and Nathan disappears. Virgil has to find him and in order to do that he must accept and recognize that there is more in this world than anyone can fathom. He goes on a vision quest and finds where Nathan is being held and, with the help of Marie, he brings Nathan back safely. This is an amazing book, one of the best I have read in a long time. The reader is fully immersed in the story and learns, along with Virgil, that denying one's identity is a dangerous thing. It is only by fully embracing one's culture that one can be at peace. Highly recommended.
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  • Ehsaneh Sadr
    January 1, 1970
    A fast-paced, smart book with beautiful characters handling the consequences of their people’s oppression with dignity, grace, creativity, humor, resilience, and love. One one level, it’s a classic whodunit, while on another it’s a meditation on the healing power of being present with one's family and traditions versus the constant striving for more money and power that is so often the wasicu way. Thank you for an incredible read!
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  • Mainlinebooker
    January 1, 1970
    I blew through this book in one day. The characters are so well developed ,the framework dead on, and the pacing on target. The Lakota Indians and their customs felt very authentic, and it was rewarding to learn more about their culture. Call me naive, but I was uneducated about the apparent class differences between different tribes. In this rough and tumble story, gruff Virgil Wounded Horse, the town's enforcer, has fallen into this job due to the poverty and lack of skills and jobs on the res I blew through this book in one day. The characters are so well developed ,the framework dead on, and the pacing on target. The Lakota Indians and their customs felt very authentic, and it was rewarding to learn more about their culture. Call me naive, but I was uneducated about the apparent class differences between different tribes. In this rough and tumble story, gruff Virgil Wounded Horse, the town's enforcer, has fallen into this job due to the poverty and lack of skills and jobs on the reservation. He comes across as a domineering hard talk individual but underneath lies a soft side. When his nephew takes an overdose of heroin, he is determined to find out who is responsible for selling drugs on the school grounds. Police and agents get involved and a scary scene plays out with the tension escalating to arresting heights. The truthfulness to reality really bonded me to the story. There is violence yes, but it is very fitting within the context of the novel. I dare you to read this without thinking about the reservations with a new sense of appreciation and understanding.Thank for to Edelweiss for an ARC in return for an honest review.
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  • Heather Gadd
    January 1, 1970
    More of these stories are needed and Weiden has a new fan for life. Already written in my go-to genre, I was intrigued early on with his in-depth, no holds barred, inside look at life on a reservation. Having grown up around and frequently visiting a reservation of one of the tribes mentioned in this book, I have seen firsthand a lot of what he is writing about, but I’m still shocked from descriptions regarding laws, justice, and politics. Thankfully, he includes more reading at the end of the b More of these stories are needed and Weiden has a new fan for life. Already written in my go-to genre, I was intrigued early on with his in-depth, no holds barred, inside look at life on a reservation. Having grown up around and frequently visiting a reservation of one of the tribes mentioned in this book, I have seen firsthand a lot of what he is writing about, but I’m still shocked from descriptions regarding laws, justice, and politics. Thankfully, he includes more reading at the end of the book, and upon finishing, I was looking up those titles at the library. Stories revolving around drugs and alcohol always hit in a personal way, resonating with my own personal experiences with friends and family. This is a story I have lived and watched play out multiple times, and Virgil’s vigilantism is the kind of action I could only fantasize about playing out. Despite the murky legalities of a man for hire, the scenes play out with a clear moral code, but with enough brutality that leaves you feeling uncomfortable, thus humanizing the experience. It is fun reading the spot-on descriptions of Denver, the only other state I’ve lived aside from my home in Washington State. I have traveled the same streets mentioned in the book, the infamous Colfax, I worked at a Starbucks on Federal, I lived so close to the dog food factory that I could smell it in my living room depending which way the wind blew, and of course, Casa Bonita and their memorable sopapillas.Further enriching this novel are the everyday Lakota words and phrases peppered throughout the entire story. Many are explained, but some I still googled to get a better understanding and context. Ceremonies and customs still performed to this day are described with a reverence lending to the sacredness of these practices. The commitment and loyalty to the tribe is stirring and beautiful. Everything about this novel is exquisite and well executed and I’m anxious to see more from Mr. Weiden. Thank you to Harper Collins for an advanced copy. The opinions are my own.
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  • Anne
    January 1, 1970
    I am so happy to have heard about this book and had the opportunity to read an early copy. There aren't a lot of indiginous voices writing detective/mystery novels and this one is really good. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~“Yeah, I liked the fighting. Ambushing some a$$hole, pounding the crap out of him, teaching him a lesson—I never felt so alive as when I was administering some righteousness...For years I’d been helping people get some justice on the rez, the only means they had left to them by a legal sys I am so happy to have heard about this book and had the opportunity to read an early copy. There aren't a lot of indiginous voices writing detective/mystery novels and this one is really good. ~~~~~~~<>~~~~~~~~“Yeah, I liked the fighting. Ambushing some a$$hole, pounding the crap out of him, teaching him a lesson—I never felt so alive as when I was administering some righteousness...For years I’d been helping people get some justice on the rez, the only means they had left to them by a legal system that had sold them down the river.” ~~~~~~~~<>~~~~~~~~That’s the voice of Virgil Wounded Horse who is considered by some the local thug, the deliverer of justice by others in the community on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. Even though Virgil doles out lessons with his fists he is a very sympathetic character and by the end of this book I hated saying goodbye to him and others. In this story Virgil introduces us to life on the rez and to the important people in his life: his nephew Nathan, his mom, and his former girlfriend Marie. When misfortune befalls Nathan it is clear that Virgil will do whatever it takes to clear Nathan’s name and keep him safe. Throughout the telling we learn a fair amount about life and about justice, Lakota ceremonies, and other Native traditions. The author’s notes at the end contain some staggering information and statistics about the handling of felony crimes on the reservation. Highly recommended!Thank you to @harpercollinsus and @eccobooks for this #advancereaderscopy
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  • Rhiannon Johnson
    January 1, 1970
    I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.**Review to come**
  • Michael
    January 1, 1970
    My review for this book was published by Library Journal in June 2020:A Native American vigilante-for-hire takes his most personal assignment in this debut. When the American justice system fails, a distressingly common occurrence on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Virgil Wounded Horse is the guy you call to mete out punishment on his own terms—even if you’re a tribal councilman looking to get heroin off your reservation. No sooner does Virgil begin to track down who’s smuggling My review for this book was published by Library Journal in June 2020:A Native American vigilante-for-hire takes his most personal assignment in this debut. When the American justice system fails, a distressingly common occurrence on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Virgil Wounded Horse is the guy you call to mete out punishment on his own terms—even if you’re a tribal councilman looking to get heroin off your reservation. No sooner does Virgil begin to track down who’s smuggling the drugs and eliminate the problem (with the help of ex-girlfriend Marie, the councilman’s daughter), when he suddenly faces a more immediate problem: his nephew Nathan has been caught with enough prescription pills in his school locker that he could receive 30 years in prison. As he works to hunt down the drug dealers and prove Nathan’s innocence, Virgil must reconcile his actions with his rogue nature and natural suspicion of working with a police force that hasn’t had his tribe’s interests at heart; while Marie pushes him to embrace the spiritual side of his Lakota heritage. VERDICT Weiden’s series launch sheds much-needed light on the legal and societal barriers facing Native Americans while also delivering a suspenseful thriller that builds to a bloody climax. A worthy addition to the burgeoning canon of indigenous literature. Copyright ©2020 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
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  • Meredith Rankin
    January 1, 1970
    If you love gritty crime fiction, honest portrayals of Native American reservation life, and vigilante justice, this book might be just your thing. (Better yet, it appears to be the start of a series!) This book mesmerized me. Though I was a bit burnt-out on reading when I started, Weiden captured my attention by the end of the first page and I devoured the book. Winter Counts surpassed my expectations. The Characters VIRGIL was one of the most sympathetic vigilante enforcers I’ve encountered If you love gritty crime fiction, honest portrayals of Native American reservation life, and vigilante justice, this book might be just your thing. (Better yet, it appears to be the start of a series!) This book mesmerized me. Though I was a bit burnt-out on reading when I started, Weiden captured my attention by the end of the first page and I devoured the book. Winter Counts surpassed my expectations. The Characters VIRGIL was one of the most sympathetic vigilante enforcers I’ve encountered in a crime novel. He’s tough as nails and cynical. But underneath, he’s wounded from multiple hardships. Bullied relentlessly in school. Orphaned. His sister has died, leaving him to raise his nephew with too little money and too many fears. He’s a multi-faceted, engaging narrator, one who can stare with unflinching honesty at the hardships of reservation life.His ex-girlfriend Marie and nephew Nathan are also fascinating characters. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them. While it is a little cliched for ex-partners Virgil and Marie to team up, they have great chemistry and make good partners. It will be interesting to see where their relationship goes in book two (assuming there is a sequel).Then there’s Chef Lackland Strongbow, the visiting chef from California who cooks “indigi-cultural decolo-native cuisine.” Translation: he only uses ingredients that have been around since before Columbus. Marie is enthralled by the man; Virgil is jealous and finds the chef pretentious, though even he has to admit the food is tasty. Interesting guy, and he has surprises in store for the other characters. Reservation Life This is a fascinating and eye-opening look at life on the reservation. Almost everyone lives in poverty. Sometimes there’s barely money for toilet paper. The federal government provides some lousy food supplies; it’s all processed food, the stuff that makes dietitians and clean-eating proponents gasp in horror: canned vegetables, instant potatoes, powdered eggs. Everything fried in oil. Nothing like the traditional foods their ancestors ate before the Europeans took over. It’s no wonder that Chef Lack wants to “decolonize” their minds and stomachs.Justice is a strange concept on the reservation. The tribal police handle misdemeanors, but anything requiring a sentence of over a year–any felony–is in federal jurisdiction. Unfortunately, the federal prosecutors usually decline to press charges unless it’s a murder case. That means there’s usually no justice for any felony that happens on tribal land–including sexual assaults, child abuse, domestic violence, and other violent crimes–that doesn’t end a life.For crimes committed outside the reservation, however, a Native American can expect an unduly harsh sentence. Virgil’s buddy Tommy spent two years in a federal prison for hitting a white man in self-defense . . . with a can of body spray. Would a white man get that sentence? Maybe. But it seems less likely.Weiden works in the history of the indigenous/white relationship in North America in a natural way. It’s a huge part of the world he recreates for us in this story. I didn’t feel the book’s attitude was antagonistic toward whites; Virgil’s attitude seems equal parts anger, resignation, and sadness. But it also doesn’t whitewash the ways white people and the federal government have treated the native peoples: shamefully. The Plot The story may seem slow at the beginning. There are lots of descriptions of reservation life, and sometimes little seems to happen. Yet tension roils beneath the surface of every scene. It’s a tension within Virgil: his internal battle as he grapples with what it means to be a Lakota man. Because of past events, he became disillusioned about the old ways and rejected them long ago. Now he’s being forced to reconsider that rejection. And I sensed that underneath, he longs for those old ways to be real.Will he embrace the traditional Lakota values of forgiveness and compassion? But what does this mean? How can he do that, yet also seek justice for those on the reservation who are devastated by the drug cartels infiltrating the reservation? Add to that his fears over his nephew’s situation and desire to protect him. Add to that his insecurity as he and Marie, his ex-girlfriend, resume their relationship. It all adds up to create a volatile internal war that threatens to turn external.The story takes some sharp turns. While I guessed some of the twists, others were less predictable. Soon that inner turmoil explodes. Weiden raises the stakes for Virgil, but also for other characters. As the story came to a climax, the situation unfolding on the page was so tense, so fraught with danger, that I couldn’t stop reading. I couldn’t keep my eyes off the page. One Favorite Thing . . . I had multiple favorite things in this book, but I’ll only highlight one.Chef Lack’s decolonized indigenous Native cuisine was interesting. Most Americans (not only Native Americans, but plenty of others) would think his food choices strange. But his enthusiasm for foraging wild foods (think seeds, herbs, vegetables) is contagious. It was enough to make me wonder what ingredients are native to my area and how to incorporate them into my family’s diet. Overall This was an impressive debut. The writing quality is superb, packed with eloquence, honesty, and compassion. Winter Counts mesmerized me. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who loves crime novels or thrillers.Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley and Ecco/HarperCollins, and was not required to give a positive review. All opinions in this review are mine.
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  • Marlene
    January 1, 1970
    Originally published at Reading RealityWinter Counts sits on that uncomfortably sharp knife-edge between thriller and mystery. And when that knife edge cuts, the majority of the story feels like it falls on the thriller side of the equation. And what a thriller it is.The reader, following in the footsteps of Virgil Wounded Horse, isn’t looking for merely whodunnit. For one thing, Virgil thinks that he already knows. But what he’s really in the middle of is more of a “something rotten in the stat Originally published at Reading RealityWinter Counts sits on that uncomfortably sharp knife-edge between thriller and mystery. And when that knife edge cuts, the majority of the story feels like it falls on the thriller side of the equation. And what a thriller it is.The reader, following in the footsteps of Virgil Wounded Horse, isn’t looking for merely whodunnit. For one thing, Virgil thinks that he already knows. But what he’s really in the middle of is more of a “something rotten in the state of Denmark” situation, with the Rosebud Indian Reservation standing in for Hamlet’s Denmark.And the something that’s rotten? That lives up to another cliche, the one about the fish rotting from the head down. A head that is more than savvy enough to keep Virgil just distracted enough not to turn his eyes in its direction.Virgil is the reservation’s enforcer, an unofficial position that exists in a yawning chasm, the howling abyss between the misdemeanor level of crimes that the Tribal Police are legally permitted to investigate and the felonies that the U.S. Federal Agencies are willing to take on. Serious crimes like rape, child abuse and assault all drown in that huge gap. Virgil’s position – and it really does exist on many reservations – arose so that people on the reservation could get some kind of justice. That the guilty would pay something for their crimes, even if the law never went after them.Because it doesn’t. (That the rape of women on reservation land inevitably falls into this gap is one of the many, many, too many hills that the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act has died on. A fact that is disgusting on so many different axes that I can’t even. Period.)Back to the story.Considering what Virgil does, it is not illogical for Tribal Councilman Ben Short Bear to contact Virgil about someone running heroin on tribal lands. But’s it’s not completely logical, either. Not just because Ben already knows who the drug dealer is, but because he paints this as a more than big enough crime to actually get the Feds off their asses to investigate. Major drug busts make both cops’ and prosecutors’ careers, and this one seems to be plenty big enough. Something about this one smells fishy, fishy enough that Virgil wants to think about it for a few days.Then his nephew, Nathan, the teenage boy that Virgil is raising, barely survives a heroin overdose. Virgil is suddenly all in on a case he wasn’t sure about getting involved in – and isn’t that a huge coincidence? Nathan has had some issues, but up until this point drugs have not been one of them. A circumstance that should have seemed very fishy to Virgil, but he’s too emotionally compromised in this case to be thinking clearly.As the criminal intended.Virgil has to juggle this case he didn’t want, an on-again, off-again romance that he isn’t sure needs to be on again, and his care for a boy who is suddenly up to his neck in more trouble than either of them can handle.Even the Feds are involved, with Virgil and Nathan playing “piggy-in-the-middle” in a tug of war between feuding drug gangs, rival jurisdictions and that rotten fish at the top of the food chain, playing all the ends against Virgil and Nathan in the middle.Escape Rating A: It felt like Winter Counts was a thriller because of the way that the story works. The reader, and Virgil, both believe that they know what the crime is at the very beginning. It’s only as Virgil investigates that the picture begins to shift and the reader realizes just how badly he – and everyone around him – have been deceived.I knew who the real villain was from the very beginning. I just didn’t know exactly what his villainy consisted of – or how or if Virgil was going to expose that villainy. And it was the two-steps forward, one-step back nature of that search and that exposure that kept me going through the story.I felt compelled to know – even as the picture kept getting darker and murkier. As much as I had figured out the who, I was nowhere near sure about all the tendrils of the how and the why was still stunning in the depths to which it reached, as well as the amount of collateral damage it piled up.Virgil begins this story as a man who may be doing a job, but is mostly looking for a bit of his own brand of justice against the men who, once upon a time, were the biggest bullies in a high school that looked down upon him as not being fully Lakota. He only gets fully invested when Nathan gets swept into the case, as intended by the crook he doesn’t even realize he’s pursuing.In order to both solve the case and save his nephew – and himself – he has to move forward. He has to look for healing for his old resentments and reconcile himself to the wounds that can neither be healed nor avenged.Considering that Virgil is the adult and Nathan the teenager, there’s a big part of this story that is about both of them growing up and facing the future. In order to be prepared for the next time that evil turns its gaze upon them. As Winter Counts is purported to be the opening book in a new series, I expect that will be sooner than Virgil would like, but not nearly fast enough for readers, like this one, who want more.
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  • Megan
    January 1, 1970
    When I got to the end of this debut thriller, I could not help but hope that a follow-up was in the works. The setting and characters pulled me into the story from the beginning and I would love to spend more time in this world if this becomes a series. Even if this remains a standalone, I hope to read more novels by this author that are set in South Dakota and offer similar insights to life on the Rosebud Reservation. This novel is a gritty one, but if you like mysteries with a noir flavor, add When I got to the end of this debut thriller, I could not help but hope that a follow-up was in the works. The setting and characters pulled me into the story from the beginning and I would love to spend more time in this world if this becomes a series. Even if this remains a standalone, I hope to read more novels by this author that are set in South Dakota and offer similar insights to life on the Rosebud Reservation. This novel is a gritty one, but if you like mysteries with a noir flavor, add this one to your TBR list today and pick up a copy as soon as possible. This modern noir feels both familiar and fresh, and is action-packed from start to finish. The main character, Virgil Wounded Horse, is the local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Virgil delivers justice on behalf of those whom the American legal system has failed. When the story opens, we meet Virgil waiting in front of a bar to mete out justice to a powerful local man who abused a young girl. Virgil's waived his usual fee for the opportunity to kick this guy's butt pro bono. The school system fears retaliation, so vigilante justice appears to be the only option for the family in ensuring that this man gets what he deserves. The confrontation between Virgil and the scumbag gives the reader a feel for the type of person Virgil is and the ride he's going to take the reader on. When heroin finds its way to the reservation and his teen nephew, Nathan, Virgil's vigilantism becomes very personal very quickly. He enlists the help of an ex-girlfriend, Marie Short Bear, to determine the source of the heroin that is threatening the community and to cut it off before it becomes an even bigger problem. Marie's father is an influential tribal councilman and is closely following Virgil's investigation. History, politics, and complex legalities all factor into the race to stop a drug cartel from gaining a foothold in the reservation. The author's note and acknowledgements are must reads. Although this was a work of fiction, I liked how the author wove in real elements of life on the Rosebud Reservation, including the fact that private enforcers like Virgil actually exist, and how felony crimes committed on Native lands are prosecuted (or not). I also appreciated how much care the author took in presenting aspects of Lakota spirituality as part of the story. I felt that added another dimension to both the story and Virgil. This review was based on the advanced digital copy I received via NetGalley. Many thanks to Ecco/Harper Collins for the early look at this exceptional debut novel!I used this for the 2020 BookRiot Read Harder Challenge prompt "read a book in any genre by a Native, First Nations, or indigenous author."
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  • Robyn
    January 1, 1970
    PLA (Public Library Association) feels like it was a million years ago. Were six months really that long ago? That’s where I picked up an uncorrected proof of Winter Counts. Everywhere I’ve read about this book it’s pitched as a Native thriller or crime mystery and it’s getting phrases like “tour-de-force” “full-throttle” and “crackles” from fellow authors. Weiden is an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation and the story takes place on Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Rosebud i PLA (Public Library Association) feels like it was a million years ago. Were six months really that long ago? That’s where I picked up an uncorrected proof of Winter Counts. Everywhere I’ve read about this book it’s pitched as a Native thriller or crime mystery and it’s getting phrases like “tour-de-force” “full-throttle” and “crackles” from fellow authors. Weiden is an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation and the story takes place on Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Rosebud is really in South Dakota as well as many of the other locations mentioned in the book like Pine Ridge Reservation and Rapid City. This is Weiden’s debut novel and it sets out tackling many present-day problems such as addiction, poverty, and the inability to charge felony crimes (tribal courts have to refer felonies to federal investigators). Weiden also ruminates on Native culture and the effect of modernity via indigenous cuisine, ceremonies, and more. These aspects were compelling and I found myself thinking about them after finishing a chapter or closing the book. This made the book feel less “thriller” and more crime mystery. It’s a quick read with short chapters and a good amount of dialog. There were some rough transitions between scenes, but those may be fixed in the final version of the book. I was a bit disappointed with the female representation. Marie, the main character’s (Virgil Wounded Horse) ex-girlfriend, was pretty flat and served mostly to show Virgil’s emotional growth (which you are told directly that he’s changed) and to help move the plot forward. Towards the beginning, we are introduced to another female character, Aunt Audrey, Virgil’s mother’s sister?, who is in her eighties or nineties. We are told she’ll help with Nathan, Virgil’s teenage nephew. She never actually makes an appearance. Ever. We’re just told about her, and we’re supposed to accept she wouldn’t have anything interesting to add to the story. She exists only to allow Virgil to go to Denver and this felt weird to me. The ending sets up for another Virgil Wounded Horse mystery. I’ll keep my eye out for it but won’t rush to pick it up.
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  • Krystal Galvis
    January 1, 1970
    "Winter counts were the calendar system used by the Lakota, but they weren't like modern ones. I'd loved the little pictures in the calendars, each image showing the most significant event from the past year.”“Winter Counts” by Sicangu Lakota author David Heska Wanbli Weiden introduces Virgil Wounded House, the local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Virgil delivers justice on behalf of those whom the American legal system and the tribal police have failed with cases th "Winter counts were the calendar system used by the Lakota, but they weren't like modern ones. I'd loved the little pictures in the calendars, each image showing the most significant event from the past year.”“Winter Counts” by Sicangu Lakota author David Heska Wanbli Weiden introduces Virgil Wounded House, the local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Virgil delivers justice on behalf of those whom the American legal system and the tribal police have failed with cases that involved sexual assault and child kidnapping. Virgil is a tough guy enacting justice and earning enough money to get his nephew to a good college, but you quickly realize that the tough guy act is a cover to hide his trauma and vulnerabilities. And he’s worried that his nephew, Nathan, will be like him as Nathan is trying to cope with his trauma and identity. Marie, Virgil’s ex-girlfriend and councilman’s daughter, is torn between pursuing a Western education and leaving home or choosing to use the Indigenous knowledge to serve her community to live a better life such as medicine and food planting. I am an advocate reading BIPOC author’s books and this novel was entertaining, humorous, well written, and realistic. It touched on many important issues that affect Indigenous people living on the reservations with little funding, the systemic racism, the lack of law enforcement, and the violence. David Heska Wanbli Weiden provided more Indigenous voices to be heard. Each page of the culture, the food, the perspective of racism in and out of the reservation brings more insight and awareness. The author's note and acknowledgements are must reads. Although this was a work of fiction, I liked how the author wove in real elements of life on the Rosebud Reservation, including the fact that private enforcers like Virgil actually exist, and how felony crimes committed on Native lands are prosecuted and/or not. I highly recommend everyone to read this book. It comes out August 25th, 2020. Thank you, Ecco Books, for the ARC in exchange for an honest review
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  • Sue
    January 1, 1970
    This is a wonderful mystery that is set on Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota and all of the main characters are Native Americans. It's a real page turner mystery but it also gives us a picture of the poor living conditions on the reservations and a lot of history about the Lakota tribe.Virgil Wounded Horse is an enforcer. He punishes people who the justice system ignores. He is a recovered alcoholic and is has been raising his 14 year old nephew since his mother got killed in a car acci This is a wonderful mystery that is set on Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota and all of the main characters are Native Americans. It's a real page turner mystery but it also gives us a picture of the poor living conditions on the reservations and a lot of history about the Lakota tribe.Virgil Wounded Horse is an enforcer. He punishes people who the justice system ignores. He is a recovered alcoholic and is has been raising his 14 year old nephew since his mother got killed in a car accident. He's approached by a man on the tribe council and asked to look into the heroin that has started to become available on the reservation for the young people. After getting more information, he agrees to find out who is behind bringing the drugs in and to make them stop no matter he has to do. When his search begins to affect his nephew and his old girlfriend, he realizes that he is dealing with more than Mexican cartels - he is also dealing with corruption by those who should be protecting the people on the reservation.I don't want to give away and of the plot but I will tell you that once you start this book, you won't want to put it down. The main character is a flawed person and a hero at the same time. He wants to help his people but has long given up his trust in the old beliefs of the Lakota tribe. Even though he is a very conflicted man, he stays protective of his nephew, girlfriend and all of his friends. He is a complex character who is very driven to protect those around him.I enjoyed this debut novel and stayed up way past bedtime to keep reading it. I can't wait to see what the author writes next!
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