Indian Killer

( 11 )

Overview

A murderer is stalking and scalping white men in Seattle. While this so-called Indian Killer terrorizes the city, its Native American population is thrown into turmoil. John Smith, an Indian adopted as a newborn baby into a white family, is increasingly dissatisfied with his life and dreams of the existence he might have led on the reservation - he is gently descending into madness. In his search for connection he meets Marie, a strident young student at the local university who is isolated from her tribe; she is...
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Indian Killer: A Novel

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Overview

A murderer is stalking and scalping white men in Seattle. While this so-called Indian Killer terrorizes the city, its Native American population is thrown into turmoil. John Smith, an Indian adopted as a newborn baby into a white family, is increasingly dissatisfied with his life and dreams of the existence he might have led on the reservation - he is gently descending into madness. In his search for connection he meets Marie, a strident young student at the local university who is isolated from her tribe; she is highly educated, but not in her own traditions. Marie is particularly enraged with people such as Jack Wilson, a local ex-cop and now a popular mystery writer who passes himself off as part Indian in a desperate attempt at acceptance. Jack is determined to write about the brutal killings in his next novel, a novel that he believes will truly reveal what it is like to be Indian. With each new murder, the city is gripped by fear, and hate crimes perpetrated by white men against the Native American community grow increasingly violent. As the murderer searches for his latest victim, and the Indian population of Seattle is filled with a strange combination of fear and relief, Indian Killer builds to an unexpected and terrifying climax.
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Editorial Reviews

Robert Spillman

Sherman Alexie is a Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian who's received much deserved praise for his wry, taut, short story collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, and for his blackly funny first novel Reservation Blues. With the ambitious and provocative Indian Killer, however, Alexie has arrived as one of the most potent new voices in American fiction. This multi-faceted tale is set in Seattle, a melting pot of Indians and whites, and the home of John Smith -- a tall, full-blooded Indian of an unknown tribe, raised by his loving white adoptive parents. A construction worker on "the last skyscraper in Seattle," John is a loner who hears voices, mainly that of his mentor, a Jesuit Indian who walked into the desert never to be seen again.

John feels neither Indian nor white, and he longs to lash out both at his own insensibility and in retribution for the entire history of Indian/white confrontation, "as if the world could be changed with a single gesture." He decides that this single gesture should be the random killing of a white man. After committing the bloody murder, John isn't satisfied and thinks that he needs to commit a much more brutal crime to capture the attention of white America. Some liberals and Indians are (uneasily) thrilled by this belated revenge, and everyone has an opinion about who is really behind the gruesome acts. John's violent and seemingly untraceable path crosses with a variety of well-sketched minor characters: an Indian student activist; a well-meaning white anthropologist who teaches Native American lit; a white ex-cop mystery writer who claims to be Indian and thus feels entitled to speak for all Indians; an angry young white man whose brother has been killed and who seeks revenge against all Indians; an angry young Indian whose white father beat him and who now lashes out against all white men; and a right-wing talk radio host who spreads fear of Indians after a white man is found scalped. Alexie neatly weaves them into a mesmerizing thriller packed with a righteous indignation reminiscent of James Baldwin at his best. This is a passionate, beautifully constructed and compelling novel by an extremely gifted writer. -- Salon

Kirkus Reviews

A terrific second novel by the talented young Native American author whose highly praised fiction (The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, 1993; Reservation Blues, 1995) has already moved him on to the short list of the country's best young writers.

It's a rich, panoramic portrayal of contemporary Seattle that uses the form of the mystery to tell some uncomfortable home truths about Indian-white relations, and indeed racism in all its forms. Alexie begins by focusing on the ironically named John Smith, who was either given up for adoption by, or stolen away from, his teenaged Indian mother. He is raised by loving and conscientious white "parents" and finds himself in traumatized adulthood "an Indian without a tribe," a misfit who belongs to no culture, wandering the streets among the city's homeless, seeking an outlet for the unfocused rage he knows he can no longer suppress. Is John Smith the "Indian killer" who stalks and murders white men, scalping them for good measure, terrorizing the city and provoking a rash of racially motivated violence? Alexie teases us with that possibility right up to the last page, meanwhile populating his exciting story with a host of keenly observed and rigorously analyzed characters. The most memorable include Marie Polatkin, a fiery Native American college student and activist with no use for sentimental white liberals; Jack Wilson, an ex-cop turned popular novelist, whose exploration (and exploitation) of a small trace of "Indian blood" in his ancestry infuriates his full-blooded "brothers"; and John Smith's adoptive parents, Olivia and Daniel, whose decency and good will are portrayed with fairness and respect. Alexiesucceeds brilliantly at suggesting the time- bombticking character of John Smith's ravaged psyche, and the novel rips along at a breathless pace.

Both a splendidly constructed and wonderfully readable thriller—and a haunting, challenging articulation of the plight and the pride of contemporary Native Americans.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802143570
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/18/2008
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 194,617
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Sherman Alexie
Sherman Alexie
A National Book Award-winning author, poet, and filmmaker, Sherman has been named one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists and has been lauded by The Boston Globe as "an important voice in American literature." He is one of the most well known and beloved literary writers of his generation, with works such as The Long Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and Reservation Blues and has received numerous awards and citations, including the PEN/Malamud Award for Fiction and the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Award.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 11 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 1, 2011

    An average story written for the average person.

    "Indian Killer" is an exciting and thought provoking book that displays the way the society works while creating a thrilling plot to make the story more exciting. The title of "Indian Killer" is an accurate and exciting title because it displays the key points in the story without completely giving it away. In a way, "Indian Killer", is very interesting story that I personally believe anyone would enjoy regardless of age or race.

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  • Posted January 3, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Had Trouble Putting it Down!

    Sherman Alexie is a fantastic writer. His style is highly approachable. The plot flows well, with a great mix of suspense, drama and dark humor. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good thought provoking mystery.

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  • Posted November 8, 2009

    Indian Killer Review

    Secret Killer

    Sherman Alexie's "Indian Killer" is a great book which I would strongly recommend. It's set in Seattle in the city of Spokane were the main characters, a troubled John Smith a 6' 6", heavily muscled, Spokane Indian and psychotic killer live.
    The author begins the book describing the main character, John Smith's birth as being difficult and extremely painful for his fourteen year old mother. He details the birth using good imagery, describing the blood gushing from her vagina, painful contractions, and sudden tearing. After his birth, his mother chooses to give him up for adoption to Olivia Smith, a beautiful white women who is dedicated to being a good mother, and Daniel Smith a handsome, strong, white man, a loving father determined to teach their Indian son how to be a man.
    Eventually, they decided to baptize their Indian son by a man named, Father Duncan, a Spokane Indian, Jesuit, gigantic man, about 7' 2" with delicate hands. Father Duncan was a teacher and close friend to John. He'd share secrets that he made John promise never to reveal. Then one day when John was six years old, Father Duncan took him to a chapel were he showed him a paintings of Indians killing white Jesuits. In this visit Father Duncan explained that a change was occurring inside him to John, who didn't really understand as they stared at the glass. Father Duncan continued his visits until John was seven years old, were one day he disappeared. This disappearance eventually pushed John to certain insanity which was already built up from lack of community, not knowing his heritage and mother. This unstableness in John progresses to the point were he decided that he needed to kill a white man.
    After he comes to this decision a psychotic killer arises. This killer, kills a white man by devouring his eyes, scalping him, and stabbing him multiple times in the chest. He continues, kidnapping a white boy, Mark Jones, a six year old white boy, with blonde hair and blue-eyes. His killings throw the city into a state of panic.
    As well as the main character the author includes many side characters as well. Marie Polatkin, an aggressive, beautiful Spokane Indian who attends the University of Washington and constantly challenges the ideas of Dr. Clarence Mather, a professor of the college and Indian wannabe. Reggie Polatkin a half-breed Indian, with long black hair braided into two ponytails, and blue eyes, who was kicked out of the university for assaulting Dr. Mather. This characters are a few of the side characters but you'll have to read the book in order to learn more.

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  • Posted April 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    a permanent resident in my library

    Sherman Alexie can do no wrong by me (except maybe his descent into the Teen and YA genres). Indian Killer is such a unique sort of thriller. It's a beautiful portrayal of anger and madness, and especially of the thin line between the two. John Smith will always have a place in my heart.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2000

    Realistic content

    John Smith is a Native American who was adopted as a baby by a Caucasian couple. Throughout his life, he is unhappy the way he lives it. He wants to live like a real Indian on a reservation. As a grown man, he lives in Seattle as a lonely man who has depressed life. When a murderer starts to scalp and kidnap white men, a culture clash begins between the Indians and the Whites. John is forced to cope with the conflicts of being an Indian in a city that has become chaotic and in turmoil. <p> Although this book is fiction, the content of it is real. Sherman Alexie's writing flows together and makes a lot of sense, even if readers don't know much about the issues. The writing about the lifestyles of Native American's is portrayed accurately because the author is Native American. It is the real deal and readers who like a good mystery thriller and want to learn a sense of the lifestyle of Native Americans should read this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2000

    an outstanding book

    I thought that is was the best book that I read The only book that I didnt quit on for the first time I wish there had been more of the book so that I could have read more

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2000

    Cilling Realism

    The talent of Sherman Alexie is in my own opinion at an unrivaled state in this country. The book is so utterly gripping in structure that I read the entire work in less than a day, and enjoyed every last word written. The book is absolutely chilling due to several elements which the author included. First, the story of a native man killing white people brings about the nervous sense of a coming apocalypse, as does the stark divisions of the caucasian populace and the native americans of Seattle within the story. The thought of the native peoples'support for the killer, and the uprising of vigilance in the white community adds passion and fear to the book, as does the killers' use of owl feathers as a calling card. I am a Chicano man, and know that I am very strongly rooted in my own type of native culture. Ancient mexican native cultures believed the owl to be a symbol of death, and this belief has stayed very prevalent in my culture as well as many other native american cultures to this very day. Alexies' comparision of the Indian Killer to an owl was frightening at the very least. I may have already revealed too much, so read the book and make your own decision. You will not regret it.

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    Posted January 29, 2009

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    Posted December 3, 2008

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2011

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