“Sinking Suspicions: A Sadie Walele Mystery” by Sara Sue Hoklotubbe (University of Arizona Press, 211 pages, Sept. 4)
Fresh, subtle insights into the minds and traditions of Oklahoma’s Cherokee people are a bonus in the Sadie Walela mystery book series, which is based on the author’s own rural, native roots in Rattlesnake Hollow, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pin-point in northeastern Oklahoma.
In “Sinking Suspicions” — the third book in the Walela series — Sadie travels to Maui while tensions soar in a fictionalized area around Jay, OK. She stumbles into a smoldering World War II love affair between a hula dancer and a Cherokee Marine who trained in Hawaii.
The previous two books won awards. This one focuses in part on myth-defying truths about Cherokees and the tragedy of “Americans of Japanese Ancestry” soldiers who died fighting Hitler’s forces in Europe while their families were being rounded up into 1940s internment camps.
The author, previously known as Sara Youngblood, abandoned in 1997 a two-decade management career in Oklahoma City financial institutions and gave up teaching business classes so she could join her social worker husband on assignment in Maui. She enrolled in writing classes and developed her talent as a novelist.
Using her husband’s Choctaw Indian name, Hoklotubbe, she began publishing her mystery novels, which this reviewer considers as powerful as the Navajo detective books written by another native Oklahoman, Tony Hillerman. His daughter, author Anne Hillerman, has praised “Sinking Suspicions,” and rightly so. Hoklotubbe brilliantly blends murder and mystery with the lives and lore of modern Cherokees.
Sadie Walela and the cast of realistic fictional characters in this series help demonstrate what life is like for American Indians in northeastern Oklahoma. Like Hillerman, Hoklotubbe deserves a national audience.
— Joseph H. Carter Sr., for The Oklahoman