Never Name the Dead

- D.M. Rowell

Goodreads Book Blurb:

Old grudges, tribal traditions, and outside influences collide for a Kiowa woman as forces threaten her family, her tribe, and the land of her ancestors, in this own-voices debut perfect for fans of Winter Counts.

No one called her Mud in Silicon Valley. There, she was Mae, a high-powered professional who had left her Kiowa roots behind a decade ago. But a cryptic voice message from her grandfather, James Sawpole, telling her to come home sounds so wrong that she catches the next plane to Oklahoma. She never expected to be plunged into a web of theft, betrayal, and murder.

Mud discovers a tribe in disarray. Fracking is damaging their ancestral lands, Kiowa families are being forced to sell off their artifacts, and frackers have threatened to kill her grandfather over his water rights. When Mud and her cousin Denny discover her grandfather missing, accused of stealing the valuable Jefferson Peace medal from the tribe museum—and stumble across a body in his work room—Mud has no choice but to search for answers.

Mud sets out into the Wildlife Refuge, determined to clear her grandfather’s name and identify the killer. But Mud has no idea that she’s about to embark on a vision quest that will involve deceit, greed, and a charging buffalo—or that a murderer is on her trail.


My Review:

***Thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for an eARC of this book. The following review is my honest reflection on the text provided.

solid, good read:
I really enjoyed Never Name the Dead for many reasons, but most of all, I loved this window into Kiowa culture.

The land demanded attention. This was Kiowa country as it had been for my ancestors - rough, wild, and harshly beautiful.

When Mae returns home at her grandfather’s urging, the world she left behind embraces her right from the airport. Thrown into tribal politics, finding her footing within her family and the community, and rediscovering herself are the true gems within this story. Sure, the mystery is twisty and complex and keeps you guessing until the end, but it’s really the backdrop to the greater story that is Mae accepting the role she was born into in her community.

I’ve had very limited exposure to Native American culture, and I’ve only read (and know of) one other book with a similar focus. Winter Counts spotlights the Sicangu Lakota people who live on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, and Never Name the Dead is about the Kiowa people who migrated from Montana to Colorado and eventually into Oklahoma. While it’s not great reading about how the historical atrocities against Native Americans have not been left in the past, it’s better than being swept under the rug and forgotten about. I know I definitely need to add more books by Native American authors to my TBR.

How easily I had forgotten the families living without power or running water on reservations and what had been reservation lands. Native Americans, America's proud first Americans, are the poorest in our nation - an unseen and overlooked minority. I shook my head and made a mental promise to do better

The only complaint I have is the fluidity of the narrative. It was difficult enough to strike the right balance between keeping the mystery moving forward while explaining Kiowa culture and history, let alone having these constant calls coming in from Silicon Valley. I liked the tug of war Mae felt between what she considers her future, her business, and her history, but it affected the flow of the story. It was such a relief when Mae had to leave her phone behind at one point – we finally got to relax into what was happening and just let it happen.

The ending was a little abrupt. Is there supposed to be another book? There are so many loose ends left untied; there better be more coming!

Suggested Tags:

Any thoughts? Leave a Comment!

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

See All Reviews   |   Quotes   |   Sort Reviews By:    # of Pages   |   Author [ Name | Gender | Nationality ]   |   DNF   |   Genre   |   Rating   |   Series   |   Title   |   Year Published


Like this:

Like Loading...
Would love your thoughts, please comment!x
%d bloggers like this: