Mystery fiction continues to be one of the most popular genres of fiction sold and read worldwide, second only to Romance fiction. There has also been a growing number of crime fiction written by Indigenous authors from across North America who have been using this widely read genre to tell engaging stories while also informing readers about social, political, and structural inequalities many Indigenous communities continue to contend with today.
These stories may not follow the typical mystery story structure wherein a mystery is solved, justice is served, and peace is restored in the community. Indigenous people are well aware that guilty parties do not always face consequences for their wrongdoings and at times there is no restorative justice. Indigenous authors often approach these difficult topics with a combination of joy, hope, humour, and resilience.
Winter Counts is one recent example wherein the author examines the inequities in the criminal justice system on Native lands. Readers learn about Lakota culture specifically, and also come away with a better understanding of how centuries of settler colonial crimes and broken promises continue to impact Indigenous communities today. We also get to see the resilience of the people, the power of community, and we are left with hope.
If you haven't had a chance to read Winter Counts yet, feel free to grab a copy and join in on our Reader Rendezvous Book Club! The buddy reading channels are always open, so feel free to share your thoughts even at a later date.
If you've enjoyed Winter Counts and would like to explore other Indigenous authored books featuring mystery genre elements, check out the list below.
These may include thriller, suspense, and horror titles as well.
A horror mystery written by Canadian author Jessica Johns. A young Cree woman's dreams lead her on a perilous journey of self-discovery that ultimately forces her to confront the toll of a legacy of violence on her family, her community and the land they call home.
A fiction novel with mystery elements written by Canadian author Amanda Peters. A four-year-old girl goes missing from the blueberry fields of Maine, sparking a tragic mystery that will remain unsolved for nearly fifty years. A story about the search for truth, the shadow of trauma, and the persistence of love across time.
A crime mystery. 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. Perfect for fans of Winter Counts.
A crime mystery written by Canadian author Wayne Arthurson. A delightful, unusual novel that upends the tropes and traditions of crime fiction while asking how far one person is willing to go to solve a crime, be it murder or the abandonment of a piece of furniture.
A crime mystery with supernatural horror elements. Rita Todacheene, a young Navajo woman, is a forensic photographer working for the Albuquerque police force. Her excellent photography skills have cracked many cases—she is almost supernaturally good at capturing details. In fact, Rita has been hiding a secret: she sees the ghosts of crime victims who point her toward the clues that other investigators overlook.
A murder mystery with supernatural elements. In small-town Geshig, which anchors an Ojibwe reservation called Languille Lake, a mid-twenties gay Ojibwe man named Marion Lafournier begins a relationship with former classmate Shannon, who's obsessed with his image as a straight white northern Minnesotan. Wandering the town one night, they encounter a manidoo, in the form of an otherworldly dog, which leads them to the grave of Ojibwe basketball star Kayden Kelliher, murdered at age 17. Solving the mystery of Kayden's death hinges on connections between ancient Ojibwe legend and Marion's family
Cash Blackbear Mysteries Series by Marcie R. Rendon
A suspense/thriller mystery series following Cash Blackbear, a young Ojibwe woman whose visions and grit help her solve brutal crimes in the 1970s Red River Valley.
DreadfulWater Series by Thomas King
A detective mystery series written by Canadian author Thomas King. The series follows Cherokee ex-cop Thumps DreadfulWater.
Lake Witch Trilogy by Stephen Graham Jones
A horror mystery series following Jade Daniels, a half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. In her quickly gentrifying rural lake town Jade sees recent events only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror films could have prepared her for. Book two Don't Fear the Reaper will be released on February 7, 2023.