JEAN HAGER – The Grandfather Medicine. St. Martin’s Press, 1989. Worldwide Mystery, paperback, November 1990.

JEAN HAGER Grandfather Medicine

   There is nothing like a murder to get your mind off your own troubles, and that is exactly how Buckskin’s Chief of Police Mitch Bushyhead feels when the body of full-blooded Joe Pigeon is found. Mitch’s wife has recently died, and he is still feeling the gap in his life, especially when it comes to raising their only daughter Emily without her.

   Buckskin is in Oklahoma, by the way. While Bushyhead himself is only half-Cherokee, he was brought up by his white mother, and is far from being any kind of authority on Cherokee ceremonies and traditions. However, no one else knows of any reason why two fingers are missing from the dead man’s hand either.

   On the face of it, this is a police procedural, but it’s one of the Bill Crider/Sheriff Dan Rhodes variety, in which the people in a small town quickly become long-time friends of the reader. And since the police force consists only of the Chief and a few well-chosen officers, a case of murder becomes essentially a one-man job, nothing at all like the cases that the 87th Precinct, for example, has to deal with.

   If you gather I liked the book, you’d be right. I also thought the culture and background of the Nighthawk Keetoowahs, a secret society of a few full Cherokees, fighting for their identity in a white man’s world, was perfectly done. And last but not least, the mystery that has to be solved is wrapped as neatly as any I’ve read in the past few months.

   In other words, here’s a book to be looking for.

— Reprinted from Mystery*File 32, July 1991 (very slightly revised).

Editorial Comment:   The Grandfather Medicine was Jean Hager’s first mystery novel. She was the author of three different series over her mystery-writing career; lists of all three can be found in my review of Sew Deadly (1998), in which Tess Darcy, a bed-and-breakfast owner, is the detective of record.