The best deadliest crime novels written by Native American authors

The Books I Picked & Why

Dirty Copper

By Jim Northrup

Dirty Copper

Why this book?

Jim Northrup, Fond du lac Ojibwe author, was my writing mentor from the time I met him in 1991 until he passed away in 2015. He would always ask, “What are you writing today?” That was his way of encouraging me to keep writing. His crime novel, Dirty Copper is the story of Luke Warmwater, who returns to the Reservation after serving in Vietnam. Luke becomes a deputy sheriff on the Rez and sees firsthand the war raging below the appearance of peace.

I would listen to Jim talk about his writing and the progress he was making on his story as he wrote it. Listening to him encouraged me to keep going with my writing. Jim’s way of storytelling through the written word is something I have tried to emulate.


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Evil Dead Center: A Mystery

By Carole Lafavor

Evil Dead Center: A Mystery

Why this book?

I met Carole LaFavor, Ojibwe, when I was writing for community newspapers and local magazines. I wrote a profile of LaFavor detailing her activism work in the Native community. Later, we were both in a writing group. I first heard some of the early writing she was doing for Evil Dead Center. She was the first Native woman I met writing crime and she inspired me to keep going on the book I was writing at the time.  University of Minnesota Press re-released Evil Dead Center in 2017 with the forward reading, “to underscore the significance of her writing to the Indigenous literary canon, to remind us of the power of her activism for HIV-positive Native peoples, and to return her important claims for the centrality of Two-Spirit peoples, bodies, and histories to the public eye.” - Lisa Tatonetti


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Every Last Secret: A Mystery (Skeet Bannion Series)

By Linda Rodriguez

Every Last Secret: A Mystery (Skeet Bannion Series)

Why this book?

Linda Rodriquez, Cherokee, is the second Native American woman I met who writes crime. Before we even met in person she was supportive of my ambition to write in this genre. She not only encouraged me to keep writing but to also join Sisters In Crime, the organization founded to support women mystery/crime writers. Every Last Secret is the #1 book in Rodriquez’s Skeet Bannion series. "Skeet" Bannion fled the stress of being the highest-ranking woman in the Kansas City Police Department, and moved to a small town to work on the local college police force. She thinks she has run away from stress until she needs to track down a killer while dealing with a vulnerable teen and the return of her ex-husband and her ailing father. So much for small town stress relief!


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Firekeeper's Daughter

By Angeline Boulley

Firekeeper's Daughter

Why this book?

Angeline Boulley, Ojibwe, is the current rock star of young adult crime writers. Her book, Firekeeper's Daughter, is setting the literary world on fire. She is a hit not just in indian country but across the country. I met Angeline at the Kweli Writer’s Conference; a gathering to ‘nurture emerging writers of color and create opportunities for their voices to be recognized and valued.’ At the time I had one novel published and a handful of children’s non-fiction. She was working on developing and finding an agent/publisher for the Firekeeper's Daughter. All the right pieces fell into the right places when she was mentored through the We Need Diverse Books program. A YA thriller with murder, drugs, mystery, and some romance thrown in, is set on a Native reservation. A ‘gotta read’ book.


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Winter Counts

By David Heska Wanbli Weiden

Winter Counts

Why this book?

Winter Counts is set on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. Virgil Wounded Horse is the rez’s vigilante justice seeker when the feds, the tribal cops, and state cops can’t get their…together. Wounded Horse takes charge and sets things right. This is Heska Wanbli’s first novel and he too, is doing things right. Winter Counts was a New York Times Editors’ Choice, an Indie Next pick, a Best Book of 2020 by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Amazon, NPR, and ten other publications. The book was an Amazon Best Mystery and Thriller of the year, Best Noir Fiction, and Best Debut of the Year as well as a Notable Selection for Best Crime Novel by CrimeReads. A must-read and then eagerly await Heska Wanbli’s second book. 


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