Cry Dance

Cry Dance

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by Kirk Mitchell

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If there's one thing Bureau of Indian Affairs Investigator Emmet Quanah Parker knows, it's that the dead don't always stay dead. With him he carries the ghosts of a partner killed in action, three failed marriages, and a long affair with the bottle. And now he's about to face the most dangerous case of his career—one that begins with a body that doesn't stay

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If there's one thing Bureau of Indian Affairs Investigator Emmet Quanah Parker knows, it's that the dead don't always stay dead. With him he carries the ghosts of a partner killed in action, three failed marriages, and a long affair with the bottle. And now he's about to face the most dangerous case of his career—one that begins with a body that doesn't stay buried.

Brutally murdered and bizarrely mutilated, a woman's corpse is discovered on Havasupai Nation land. Parker is paired with FBI Special Agent Anna Turnipseed in a hastily assembled task force of two. The two share a mixed Native American ancestry...and little else. As they are pulled deeper into a complex case, Parker suspects they are being led—like Custer into Little Bighorn—into a killer's trap, with Anna the bait and Parker himself the quarry. At the heart of it are the dead, with history the most lethal weapon of all....

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Tony Hillerman, watch your back....Mitchell knows his turf and delivers a savory  whodunit without remorse."

"Nail-bitingly intense...A breathless page-turner...with memorable Native American myths and an outdoorsman's respect for the Southwest's brutal beauty."
Kirkus Reviews

"Plenty of strenuous treks through rugged terrain...What a great guy to keep around..."
The New York Times Book Review

Jane Dickinson
The book's breakneck pace is aided by investigators who almost never sleep, except when they've been knocked unconscious by bad guys.
Denver Rocky Mountain News
Malcolm Brenner
Cry Dance is easily the equal of Hillerman's best and many, many times than his recent output. Cry Dance deserves to be read both by mystery fans and those who relish American Indian culture.
Gallup Independent
Leslie Doran
The novel's final scenes are truly creepy and caused much nail biting on my part.
Mystery News
Tony Hillerman watch your back....Kirk Mitchell knows his turf and delivers a savory whodunit without remorse.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Edgar Award nominee Mitchell (Deep Valley Malice), an ex-California SWAT cop formerly assigned to the reservations of Inyo County, offers a taut thriller about criminal control of tribal gambling casinos. Peppered with bureaucratic legalese and illuminated by fascinating lore of the Southwestern tribes, the plot is layered with authenticity. Investigating the mutilation murder of a Las Vegas-based officer of the Bureau of Land Management, Emmett Quanah Parker, part-white, part-Comanche investigator for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, is assigned to work with rookie FBI agent, half-Modoc, half-Japanese Anna Turnipseed. Although the BLM agent's body was found on a remote reservation in Arizona with her face neatly sliced off, it becomes evident that she was killed near the borax pits in Death Valley, Calif., while working on an Indian land trade involving the site for a proposed super casino near an off-ramp of Interstate 15. While Parker is in Carson City to interrogate the gaming syndicate's lawyer, Parker's old enemy, FBI agent Burk Hagiman, defies Parker's judgment and sends Anna undercover to work as a dealer at a backwater casino, where, of course, she encounters danger. The complex plot slowly reveals a conspiracy involving Jamaicans, Vegas hitmen and double-dealing Native Americans. Throughout, Mitchell tightly controls his material, his bitterness over the white man's legacy to Native Americans evident in historical asides. Unfortunately, the heart-stopping action is marred by his preoccupation with landscape, too many cardboard cutout bad Indians and a cartoonish nemesis. The climax based on the villain's change of heart is too contrived to maintain full credibility, blurring the earlier promise of a nail-biting end. Despite all this, Parker and Turnipseed make a memorable literary pair.
Library Journal
Mitchell's Southwest is as hauntingly beautiful and culturally complex as the real thing. When the faceless corpse of Stephanie Roper, a wheeling-dealing top official of the Bureau of Land Management, is discovered near Arizona's Havasupai Reservation, stoical Comanche Bureau of Indian Affairs investigator Emmett Quanah Parker is teamed with attractive, half-Modoc, half-Japanese FBI rookie Anna Turnipseed. Parker immediately senses that the killer is toying with them, providing clue after easy clue. As Anna goes undercover dealing cards at a Shoshone tribal casino, Parker heads to Lake Tahoe, where he almost loses his hand to the murderer's knife, temporarily loses the killer's scent, but nets another faceless corpse. Mitchell (Fredericksburg, LJ 2/1/96) was a law enforcement officer on the reservation in California's Inyo County and possesses an insider's knowledge of Native American history and the Southwest's brooding landscape. A good purchase, especially for Tony Hillerman fans.--Susan A. Zappia, Maricopa Cty. Lib. Dist., Phoenix
People Magazine
"Tony Hillerman, watch your back: Kirk Mitchell, a former sheriff's deputy who patrolled the Native American reservations of Inyo County, Calif., has concocted an exciting new competitor for the bestselling Jim Chee-Joe Leaphorn Navajo mysteries....Mitchell knows his turf and delivers a savory whodunit without remorse."
Marilyn Stasio
...[P]lenty of strenuous treks through rugged terrain....what a great guy to keep around...
The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
A derivative but nonetheless nail-bitingly intense hunt for a psychokiller through southwestern Indian reservations, tawdry casinos, and brooding Grand Canyon scenery, featuring dogged Bureau of Indian Affairs homicide investigator Emmett Quanah Parker and spunky rookie FBI special agent Anna Turpinseed. Historical and mystery novelist Mitchell (Fredericksburg) adopts Tony Hillerman's device of relying on old and young American Indians to surmount personal, cultural, and spiritual traumas as they track a killer. Thrice-divorced Parker, a half-breed Comanche, is notorious for his gung-ho persistence and hot-headed histrionics-he frequently vows to maim and kill his well-intentioned but oafish superior, Burk Hagiman. But eventually he warms to his partner Turpinseed, a half-breed Modoc whose feisty attitude hides a childhood of abuse from her drunken father. The two are after the person who skinned the face off a beautiful but corrupt Bureau of Land Management official, Stephanie Roper, then severed her spine, and finally dumped her body into a corner of the Grand Canyon that's part of Arizona's Havasupai Reservation. Parker and Turpinseed discover that Roper was waffling on a deal that would have swapped Indian land for a piece of federally owned turf in California fronting the highway leading into Las Vegas. The site is coveted by the Inter-Mountain Gaming company for a multi-tribal Indian casino. Just as Parker arrives to question Inter-Mountain's Jamaican president Nigel Merrison, he surprises the killer, with dreadlocks dangling from his hair, as he drops Merrison's mutilated corpse into Lake Tahoe. Their prey escapes after stabbing Parker's left hand. Meanwhile, Turpinseeddecides to go undercover as a dealer at the casino where Roper's Lakota lover and Indian rights activist Cyrus Fourkiller (who wears his hair in dreadlocks and was furiously scrubbing his hands hours after Merrison was killed) has been spotted. A breathless page-turner that overcomes its by-the-numbers plotting and gore with memorable Native American myths and an outdoorsman's respect for the Southwest's brutal beauty.

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Random House Publishing Group
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4.20(w) x 6.65(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

"You the BIA guy from Phoenix?"

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, United States Department of the Interior. In the last century, the same inflection would have been reserved for the cavalry. Emmett Parker had just locked up his government sedan and was studying the crudely painted sign at the trailhead on Hualapai Hilltop:


"You Investigator Parker?"

Still silent, Emmett glanced skyward.

The snow was coming down harder than it had in Prescott, where he'd grabbed a late breakfast while having his tires chained up. A soft, wet snow was falling all over northern Arizona. Lowering his gaze, he studied the vehicle tracks, not his own, that showed a U-turn in the slush. Boot prints were evident too, two sets. One was small enough to belong to a juvenile. On the way in along Indian Route 18, he'd noted the passing of only three other vehicles. A power company repair van. Then a Forest Service truck. The female employee driving it looked slight enough to have left the smaller prints. And finally, about ten miles back, a 1981 Ford station wagon with two figures seated up front. Their ages and sex had been obscured by the snowmelt the wagon's tires had thrown against Emmett's windshield.

Turning, he finally examined the Havasupai tribal cop. In his early twenties, the man had a scraggly beard. His straight black hair had been painstakingly coaxed into dreadlocks, and pinned to his khaki uniform shirt was a cameo of Haile Selassie. Pai youth turning to Rastafarianism. Emmett decided not to ask the young cop about it for the moment. He was back on Indian time again: Everything revealed in its own season. "Yeah, I'm Parker."

"Billy Topocoba. Ready for this?"

"Sure," Emmett said, flipping his parka hood up over his own raven-colored hair. He still had it cut boarding-school style—scalp showing through the stubbled sides of his head.

"Any luggage?"

"Just my evidence kit." Emmett slid the battered aluminum case from the car trunk.

Topocoba had tethered a string of two horses and a mule to a pinon pine beside the tumbling cliff that marked the end of the Coconino Plateau and the beginning of the lower Grand Canyon. The abyss was lost in swirling white. He walked a tired-looking gelding over to Emmett, averting his eyes as he offered him the reins. "You some kind of Apache?"

"No, Comanche," Emmett said. He brushed off the saddle before climbing into it.

"Don't recall meetin' a Comanche before."

"Never was many of us. Like you Havasupai, I suppose." Emmett paused, then asked, "You just bring somebody up the trail with you?"


"What about those footprints?"

"Forest Service made a pass-through while I was waitin' for you."

Emmett asked, "He or she?"

"She." That much was the truth.

"She get out of her truck to chat?"

"Yeah." Topocoba shoved Parker's evidence kit into a wicker pannier on the mule. He went on avoiding eye contact, which made Emmett want to check and see if his own horse's girth strap was tightly fastened. It was too early to get paranoid, even though Topocoba was possibly lying: The smaller of the boot-sole sets appeared to begin where the mule and Topocoba's horse were waiting. But, in all fairness, the prints had already melted out enough to confuse the heel and toe impressions; it was difficult to tell which direction the walker had headed.

"Anybody come off the reservation in the last day?"

"Nope." Mounting, the young cop started down the trail, leading the mule on a handwoven rope. Not a store-bought one. A poor people—the Havasupai, the Eastern Pai. Too far from any beaten track to profit from the Indian gambling boom. Emmett saw a blessing in that. His opposition to gaming, the criminal element it often brought into Indian Country, had made him a pariah with several tribal councils. But he remained convinced the boom would one day go bust.

Clucking his tongue to get the gelding going, he followed Topocoba.

He always disliked descending into the canyon. The soaring walls and narrow sky made him claustrophobic.

Six miles and two thousand vertical feet below lay tiny Supai, the only real village on the Havasupai Reservation. Maybe the toughest Indian settlement outside Alaska to reach, a nearly impregnable sanctuary for a fugitive as long as he could appease the clannish Pai. A place where the unspeakable could be done with only the cliffs for witnesses.

Emmett's office had arranged to hire a helicopter for him in Williams, but then the storm had swept in a day earlier than expected. Just like mid-December. But secretly Emmett preferred going in on horseback. He had grown up around horses. He missed them, living in the city, missed the freedom of taking a mount out into the sea of grass. His people had been the Mongols of the Southwest plains, measuring wealth and prestige by ponies. The rhythmic sway of haunches and creak of old leather could almost persuade him that this was a journey without something grisly at its end. It hadn't felt like that in his car on the race up State Route 89, the whine of the windshield wipers reminding him of a pathologist's bone saw. The worst part of witnessing a postmortem—the sound that saw made.

The rocks were slick under the slushy snow, and Emmett tried not to think about the plunging cliff that lined the trail. "Who found it?" he asked.

"My cousin."


Topocoba twisted around in the saddle to face him. "Misty was lookin' for one of her lambs. And there it was up this cleft. Came home at a dead run. Grandma said she'd caught the spirit sickness and put her to bed right away. . . ." He gave an uncertain smile. Either he doubted such things or wanted Emmett's opinion.

Parker said nothing.

It was too soon to trust a man who, in the closed world of the Pai, claimed to know nothing about the gruesome discovery other than what his cousin had told him. And a man who might be able to lie with no apparent difficulty. "I'd like to talk to Misty."

"Can't," Topocoba said.

"Why not?"

"She's away at the Kotex hut."

Menstrual isolation. Emmett hadn't realized that the Havasupai observed the custom. "So Misty found it yesterday, and you called my office right away."

"I guess."

"Either you called or you didn't."

"I radioed," Topocoba said irritably. "The phone line went in a big rockfall. We got just a shortwave in the village now. Coconino sheriff phoned you for me."

Emmett's receptionist had said nothing about the call being relayed in this way. He glanced up again. The sky had darkened; they'd come down out of the snowfall into a steady rain. It popped against Topocoba's green nylon police jacket. The overcast had gone from a blank white to a curdled gray; the surface of the trail shimmered with rivulets of mud.

Emmett noticed that Topocoba's hands kept flexing on the reins. And the man looked all around each time the trail zigzagged.

"Any strangers come down to Supai lately?" Emmett asked.

"Just the usual."

"What's the usual?"

"Tree huggers. Sierra Clubbers." Then he added cryptically, "Babylon."

But someone or something else had been in the canyon. Perhaps it was still lurking nearby. A presence Topocoba found troubling.

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What People are saying about this

Jean Hager
Just when you think we have enough suspense novels set against Native American backgrounds, Kirk Mitchell comes along. Mitchell's voice is original.
— Author of Masked Dancers

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Cry Dance 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anaj More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the characters, the setting and the story. I brought it along on vacation to Vegas and read it in 2 days. I don't remember having read this author at all, but after reading this book, I will be looking to buy more, as I enjoyed his work. I will also be recommending this to friends who like this same plot/character style.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Since I have two jobs and three kids, even if I didn't want to put the book down, I had no choice. However, I looked forward to picking it up again and again. This is one of my first mysteries, so I really can't compare to others, but I really liked this book. I would like to read Kirk Mitchell's novel, the one written after this one, to see what other jobs Anna and Emmett have to do well or else...
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of those books that has you casting the movie as you're reading it. I couldn't put it down. I'm on my way to B&N to buy 'Spirit Sickness', I can't wait to see what happens to Parker and Anna
Guest More than 1 year ago
A real page turner. Mitchell really tells a great story. Lots of plot twists and surprises. I couldn¿t put the book down. It was especially fun seeing how Emmett Parker and Anna Turnipseed finally manage to work together despite their conflicting personalities. Mitchell makes these two characters so real, I feel I¿ve known them for years and can¿t wait to see what happens to them next. Great read for Tony Hillerman, Robert B. Parker, Clive Cussler fans.