I’m not quite sure how I stumbled across Devon Abbott Mihesuah’s The Hatak Witches. I’m glad I did, though I’m still not quite sure why. I seem to be browsing through a world of the paranormal lately. Check my post about Louise Erdrich’s The Sentence. or Sadie Jones’ The Uninvited Guests. Not only that, I am in the middle of another–Girl Gone Missing by Marcie R. Rendor. I guess I’m on an unintentional supernatural roll. So let’s get down to business.

We open as Monique Blue Hawk, a member of the Choctaw nation and chief detective of the police department in her small Oklahoma town, rises from her night’s slumber and takes off on a customary three-mile run. In the course of things, we learn that the three-miles is a short version of her normal morning mileage. She prefers five, but she’s short on time today. Today, once she gets her husband and son on the road, she takes off for a normal day’s work. From there on, complications ensue.

There’s been a murder at the local anthropological museum. One of two security guards is the victim.. The other one is missing. During the investigation, which involves a search of the premises, they find there’s a secret room in the museum, one to which only two of the employees have access. As the officers explore the secret room on their search for the missing guard, they find that it is filled floor to ceiling with cardboard boxes full of bones. Old bones found by various citizens over the years and donated to the museum on the chance that they contain Indian artifacts. They are doing their bit to help preserve their native heritage. Most of the artifacts , have yet to be catalogued or identified. As things proceed, we are faced with one of those riddles that populate conversations at some parties. There’s a room. No doors or windows. A person is imprisoned therein. Yet, he gets out. How does he do it?

At this point, it seems we are embarking on a rather conventional detective tale. However, mysteries accumulate and collide. There are incidents involving owls, which are shape shifters, plus other creatures best left to Ms. Mihesuah’s descriptions. Things get more and more dangerous and mysterious. We are soon in a world that is so full of the paranormal and supernatural that the ordinary world itself begins to seem part of the supernatural. Thus, a well-done murder mystery transforms itself into an absorbing fantasy taking place far outside the sphere of reality. Yet Ms. Mehesuah somehow keeps us grounded in reality at the same time that she transports us into another world altogether. Quite an accomplishment and entirely absorbing.

Ms. Mihesuah tells her tale with great skill, keeping at least this reader captivated the while, even while describing that which should have been completely unbelievable. The Hatak Witches is most unusual and most absorbing book. Don’t be scared. Hee, hee, hee.

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