White Earth author October’s featured selection

By Michael Tidemann

Murder on the Red River, a mystery by Marcie R. Rendon, a citizen of the White Earth Nation of Minnesota, offers stark realism and a sense of place that rivals the work of the late Larry Brown and David Rhodes. 

The story set in the Red River Valley of North Dakota and Minnesota during the era of the Vietnam War is told through the eyes of Cash, a young woman of 19 who has already lived through a lifetime of hardship and grief as she was bounced through the foster system. In her epilogue, Rendon comments further on the inequitable treatment of native children not just in Indian schools in the 19th and 20th centuries but even until today. 

Far from breaking her, though, Cash’s background has only made her stronger. Cash has a mutual admiration society of sorts with her unlikely mentor, Sheriff Wheaton, a tough but fair lawman who respects Cash’s native instinct and her ability to sift through clues and through her clairvoyance understand the experiences of others through space and time. In short, Cash has brought the best of her native culture to assist her uncanny ability to uncover clues to crimes. 

Our first glimpse of Cash is of a female farmworker who can take care of herself. A seasoned pool shark, she can clean up the table. Similarly, when it comes to dealing with men, like Jim, her occasional married lover, she can take control and have the emotional upper hand. Readers need not be offended by Rendon’s love scenes, however. She skirts over them like rocks skipping across a pond, leaving us impressions of what happened without the gory details. 

Cash and Sheriff Wheaton join forces in the novel when a native man is murdered. Cash envisions the man’s last moments, and with clairvoyant clarity determines where the man once lived. When she goes to visit his widow to break the news of his death, his widow responds angrily to Cash, and that night tragically dies, leaving a houseful of children to fend for themselves. Cash steps in to try to help the fledglings, who themselves show amazing resilience. 

When Cash investigates a second murder, she finds herself involved so deeply we wonder if she can ever escape. 

Murder on the Red River is an amazing accomplishment by an author whose gifts promise even greater things to come. The book is first of the Cash Blackbear Mystery trilogy, so it’s a great place to start experiencing Rendon and her remarkable gifts as a writer. 

Murder on the Red River 

Marcie R. Rendon 

Soho Crime 

ISBN 978-1-64129-376-1 (Kindle), ISBN 978-1641293761 (Paperback), $7.99 Kindle, $9.99 paperback 

Michael Tidemann writes from Estherville, Iowa. His Website is michaeltidemann.my.canva.site.