“A terrific second novel by the talented Native American author whose highly praised fiction has already moved him onto 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 . . . [an] exciting story with a host of keenly observed and rigorously analyzed characters. . . . Alexie succeeds brilliantly at suggesting the time-bomb-ticking character of John Smith’s ravaged psyche, and the novel rips along at a breathless pace. . . . Both a splendidly constructed thrillerand a haunting, challenging articulation of the plight and the pride of contemporary Native Americans.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Vigorous prose . . . haunted, surprising characters . . . flashes of sardonic wit . . . [ Indian Killer is] a meditative exploration of the sources of human identity.” Richard E. Nicholls, The New York Times Book Review
“Hard-edged and urban, distinctly individual. . . . The characters in Mr. Alexie’s work are not the usual kind of Indians. . . . They are not tragic victims or noble savages . . . they listen to Jimi Hendrix and Hank Williams; they dream of being basketball stars. . . . And unlike most Indians in fiction, they are sometimes funny.” New York Times
“A slyly subversive potboiler . . . a multilayered work . . . highlights the tenuous thread of civility that exists between white and American-Indian cultures.” Los Angeles Times
“Decries America’s prejudices while telling a rip-roaring good tale.” People
“A brilliant job. . . . This book will leave your head whirling. . . . A reminder that racial tensions are alive and well.” San Antonio Express-News
“Not since Richard Wright’s Native Son has a novel by a minority writer so devastatingly indicted an entire society and laid bare with merciless candor the racial hatred festering at the center of it.” Kansas City Star
“Part thriller, part magical realism, and part social commentary, Indian Killer . . . lingers long past the final page.” Seattle Weekly
“Stunningly well-written . . . riveting.” Rocky Mountain News
“Alexie has angry wit and offhand charm. . . . Best of all, the fireworks and authority are in the service of an ambitious and difficult theme: racial hatred.” Boston Sunday Globe
“Sherman Alexie has found his métier in writing novels that open the way for understanding history’s destructive spells.” Philadelphia Inquirer
“A racially charged literary thriller.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Scorching . . . brilliantly detailed.” Boulder Planet
“Alexie mesmerizes. . . . A haunting, painfully vivid portrait . . . frighteningly real.” Hartford Courant
“A passionate, beautifully constructed and compelling novel by an extremely gifted writer.” Salon Previews, Border Books
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
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 thrillerand a haunting, challenging articulation of the plight and the pride of contemporary Native Americans.