Created by Marcie R. Rendon
For you Girl Detective fans who find Nancy Drew a little too, uh, white, may I suggest Murder on the Red River (2021), a knock-you-back debut which introduces RENÉE “CASH” BLACKBEAR, a moody, rebellious nineteen year-old Ojibwe pool hustler, truck driver and aged-out foster child with a knack for crime-solving.
Hell, you could almost call it a gift.
It’s the early seventies, and change is in the air, and Cash is taking classes at Moorhead State College. But mostly she’s just bored to tears—she’d much rather cut classes, drink beer, chain smoke, and just be left alone. Or sleep with married men.
Okay, we never said she was an angel.
But she also has these, er, disturbing (but plot-convenient) visions, and they come in awful handy for her friend and guardian (it’s complicated), Sheriff Wheaton, who’s been called in to investigate the body of a native worker, possibly from the Red Lake Reservation, who was found in a field on the Minnesota side of the river.
Mystery fans may be a little disappointed at the mystery side of the story playing second fiddle to the main event, Cash’s better-late-than-never slow-burn coming of age, but there’s no hiding how compelling that journey is, and the author’s palpable rage about the treatment of Native Americans—she’s a citizen of the White Earth Anishinabe Nation herself—that she brings to this impressive debut.
An added bonus? The author’s evocative handling of a specific time and place, a world of “sun-drenched wheat fields,” pickup trucks and “cool, sweaty bottles” of Bud, Cash’s long hair that “just grazed the bottom of her butt” and the “smell of wheat coming off her cotton blouse” is pitch perfect–a fully realized depiction that rivals Raymond Chandler or Walter Mosley’s Los Angeles, or James Lee Burke’s Louisiana.
Even better is that Murder on the Red River was just the beginning. As the series has unfolded, Cash has revealed some rapidly evolving and impressive detecting chops (coaxed along by Wheaton), and her tangled mess of a life is slowly straightening itself out.
The woo-woo visions, though? Still not sure about those. I did love the CBC TV show, Seeing Things, about a bumbling reporter with second sight, from about a zillion years ago.
Then again, that was a comedy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A citizen of the White Earth Anishinabe Nation, playwright and novelist Marcie R. Rendon‘s first novel for adults, Murder on the Red River, won the Pinckley Women’s Debut Crime Novel Award in 2018, and was a Western Writers of America Spur Award Finalist 2018 in the Contemporary Novel category, while and the second in her Cash Blackbear series, Girl Gone Missing, was nominated for the Sue Grafton Memorial Award. Her two nonfiction children’s books are Pow Wow Summer and Farmer’s Market: Families Working Together. She’s also the creative director of Raving Native Theater in Minneapolis.
- “Funny, unflinching, and almost noir in tone, this book is a winner for those with a taste for classic detective fiction with a deeply modern flair.”
— Buzzfeed on Murder on the Red River
- “The plot in Rendon’s adult debut never exactly thickens—this is more coming-of-age story than mystery—but the spare prose-poetry of her descriptions and dialogue is a lot more interesting than anything she has to say about crime or detection.”
— Kirkus Reviews on Murder on the Red River
- Murder on the Red River (2017) | Buy this book | Buy the audio | Kindle it!
- Girl Gone Missing (2019) | Buy this book | Buy the audio | Kindle it!
- Sinister Graves (2022) | Buy this book | Buy the audio | Kindle it!