Cover Image: Never Name the Dead

Never Name the Dead

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Member Reviews

This was a  slow-burn of a book, but I loved every minute.   I'd read anything Rowell puts out next.
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This book was fantastic! I really enjoyed it and it kept me guessing throughout, which is difficult for most books to do. I felt like I connected with the characters and really enjoyed the plot!
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This was a really fun book and story, the mystery elements were just a little obvious and convenient. There are only so many times that a character should be conveniently overhearing useful information in a novel, let alone a single chapter. I did really enjoy the writing however and look forward to future works by this author.
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This is debut novel by D.M. Rowell.  Rowell comes from a long line of Kiowa Storytellers.  The Kiowa culture  treasures oral traditions.  I enjoyed learning about this indigenous culture through this novel and would actually love to learn more.  Sadly, I thought the story needed to be a bit more focused in many areas.  It was redundant and slow at times.  It lost my attention in several places.  Also, many times it seemed to jump from thought to thought - just needed more focus and an easier flow.  Perhaps more editing.  I did have to suspend disbelief in some of the things that Mae did - but she did start to grow on me in the end. I was torn on how I felt about this novel -but it did keep my focus more toward the end - even though ending left me with questions.
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I really enjoyed this book. The author’s writing style feels like you are sitting and listening to stories by your elders. 

There’s something about this book. The book is rich with Native American culture. 

Mud is an interesting protagonist. Loved how she put everything together and got the murderer to own up in front of a room full of witnesses!! 

Thank you @netgalley for the ARC.
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I have had a hard time getting into this one. The synopsis sounds fantastic but maybe the writing isn't for me? I am very much a mood reader and so I will try and pick this one up again in the future!
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A moving murder mystery that allows representation on multiple levels in a sort of homecoming for our intrepid, discerning protagonist. Thank you to the publishers at Crooked Lane Books for an eARC copy!

Mud Sawpole is the prodigal daughter returned to her Kiowa community in Oklahoma after a mysterious request of help from her beloved grandfather. The story start off immediately in its mystery once Mud’s grandfather doesn’t show up to the airport to pick her up and reads quickly as we get to know more of Mud, her history, and the community she loves but struggles to find her place within. 

I loved that the story upended a lot of expectations from a traditional murder mystery plot, especially with Mud hitting dead ends as well as engaging with mentor figures who are else’s than straightforward. I can’t wait to see more of Mud’s adventures especially if this book is part of a larger series.
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Never Name the Dead introduces us to Mae "Mud" Sawpole, a Kiowa, who is asked by her grandfather James to come home from Silicon Valley to Oklahoma to help him in a cryptic message. When she arrives, James is nowhere to be found. Where is he? Her search for him leads to more questions, a dead body, theft of the Jefferson Peace Medal, and illegal fracking; but not to James. Mae tries to follow the leads and solve all the mysteries while trying to locate her grandfather.

This debut was quite enjoyable. This reads more like the first in a series, as we get a lot of back story on Mae and her struggles with not being accepted by other Kiowas because of her looks. 

Some reviewers mention there's too much history in this book. I, however, disagree. The history is relevant to the story and learning about the Kiowa culture, and how and why the Kiowa interact the way they do with each other. There were a few loose ends, and I hope they will be addressed in the next book, assuming that there is one. 

My thanks to Crooked Lane Books, D.M. Rowell, and NetGalley for gifting me a digital copy of this book. My opinions are my own.
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Just recently while teaching my students English in Spain, we came across the name Kiowa.  This tribe is where the name Oklahoma comes from.  I was doubly excited to find this book on the NetGalley site. 

This is a great beginning to a series featuring Mae Sawpole.   I certainly hope this is the first book of many. The mystery deals with stolen Native American artifacts, fracking and greed.     Also how even this culture is not necessarily welcoming to someone who looks different from them. And ultimately how one’s inside feelings are more important than their appearances.  An attentive reader is capable of figuring out the mystery but it is so well done. I feel like the clues are all in plain sight, but this does not take away from it being a good mystery. 

D.M. Rowell is Kiowan and has a very similar background to the protagonist.  She has worked in California for many years working in marketing, helping to tell stories. Now she is turning her hand at plotting mysteries. 
I highly recommend this book. I am giving it 5 stars. Thank you to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for the free Advanced Reader’s Copy. I look forward to more mysteries from D.M. Rowell.
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I really enjoyed Never Name the Dead for many reasons, but most of all, I loved this window into Kiowa culture.

"The land demanded attention. This was Kiowa country as it had been for my ancestors - rough, wild, and harshly beautiful."

When Mae returns home at her grandfather's urging, the world she left behind embraces her right from the airport. Thrown into tribal politics, finding her footing within her family and the community, and rediscovering herself are the true gems within this story. Sure, the mystery is twisty and complex and keeps you guessing until the end, but it's really the backdrop to the greater story that is Mae accepting the role she was born into in her community.

I've had very limited exposure to Native American culture, and I've only read (and know of) one other book with a similar focus. Winter Counts spotlights the Sicangu Lakota people who live on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, and Never Name the Dead is about the Kiowa people who migrated from Montana to Colorado and eventually into Oklahoma. While it's not great reading about how the historical atrocities against Native Americans have not been left in the past, it's better than being swept under the rug and forgotten about. I know I definitely need to add more books by Native American authors to my TBR.

"How easily I had forgotten the families living without power or running water on reservations and what had been reservation lands. Native Americans, America's proud first Americans, are the poorest in our nation - an unseen and overlooked minority. I shook my head and made a mental promise to do better."

The only complaint I have is the fluidity of the narrative. It was difficult enough to strike the right balance between keeping the mystery moving forward while explaining Kiowa culture and history, let alone having these constant calls coming in from Silicon Valley. I liked the tug of war Mae felt between what she considers her future, her business, and her history, but it affected the flow of the story. It was such a relief when Mae had to leave her phone behind at one point - we finally got to relax into what was happening and just let it happen.

The ending was a little abrupt. Is there supposed to be another book? There are so many loose ends left untied; there better be more coming!
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Mae Sawpole returns home suddenly to the Oklahoma Reservation she grew up on  after an unexpected call from her grandfather. She knows something is wrong, and comes running, dropping everything and leaving her business in the hands of her employees and difficult business partner.

When she arrives, her grandfather is not there to pick her up from the airport. Instead, Wilson, the grandfather of the husband of her former girlfriend, and Mae, or Mud as she's known at home, gets an increasingly uncomfortable feeling that something is seriously wrong. This really is brought home when, after ditching Wilson and getting a ride some time later with her cousin, Mud returns to her grandfather's place for the first time in years to find Wilson dead there.

Mud receives visits from various people soon, and who bring various situations to her notice: illegal fracking on the Kiowa Reservation, including her grandfather's land, missing family heirlooms that had been donated to the local Kiowa museum, a suspicious-acting curator, and political intrigue amongst band leadership.

To further ratchet up the tension, Mud keeps getting calls from people at the agency, all of whom are stressed because Mae's agency is shepherding a company though the IPO launch process, and can't understand why Mae ran off to Oklahoma on her grandfather's word. 

I loved all the tension evoked by all the personal dynamics and grudges, and the reveal of multiple questionable or illegal activities going on. Mae manages to wade through the confusing statements and motives, while also reconnecting with her heritage and her past, and dealing with a reason she ran from home and hadn't looked back in years. 
I liked that though one issue was resolved (the identity of the murder and the reason for one of the artifacts' thefts), I was left wondering by the end of the book how Mud will want to balance her concerns about her agency with the festering issues on the Reservation. I hope that means we'll get more of Mud Sawpole, which would make me happy. 

Thank you to Netgalley and to Crooked Lane Books for this ARC in exchange for my review.
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Thank you to and the publisher for sending me a free copy of this book.  I am leaving this review voluntarily.

I loved the Native history was intertwined within the mystery of this story.  However, the story itself was a bit disjointed.  I'm not sure if this was a supposed to be the first of a series or if it is a stand alone but there were two main stories and one went nowhere.  There was no resolution and you are just left hanging. 

I loved the characters and the twists and turns of the plot, I know some people complained about the way the Kiowa traditions etc were interspersed feeling like they were being lectured but I didn't feel that way at all. I was very excited that this was written by a Native person instead of someone of a different culture trying to write a story about Native Americans.
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This book is a history lesson on the Kiowan  people, in-depth and committed to preservation!
The main character Mae is a proud woman with strong family ties. I’m disappointed the storyline didn’t stick more to the mystery aspect and Mae’s family traditions. I didn’t expect to be overwhelmed by history, a better blend would have made for a more enjoyable read.
The book should be promoted as a historical mystery, or perhaps both.  

Thanks to the publisher, NetGalley and the author for the opportunity to read this book.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Thank you to the author, Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley, for an ARC in exchange for an honest review (coming late because COVID finally got me).

The blurb for this debut novel got my attention, and I had high hopes. The story offers a window into Kiowa culture and the tensions of standing your ground culturally in the modern world. Unfortunately, I didn't feel that the different elements/genres meshed particularly well. The mystery was interesting, but it was interspersed with longer history lectures, and the writing was not particularly good - repetitive and simplistic, which catapults you out of any flow that might have developed.
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Mae - Mud receives a phone call from her grandfather to urgently return home. As Kiowa culture they have certain believes and specifics that Mae cannot ignore.

The first half of this book is more about her journey returning home and then discovering a body in the house. I felt like it could have been a shorter journey. There was plenty of mystery in this book but not many thriller aspects and that left me wanting more than I received. The writing style was good and the I really appreciated that the author took the time to explain the culture. 

Overall a good read.

Thank you Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for the opportunity to read and review this ARC.
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When Mae (Mud) is called home by her grandfather, she is unable to decline. Leaving her own business at a turning point, Mae lands in Oklahoma to find her grandfather missing, a dead body in his special room, and a whole lot of mysterious goings on. I loved how the story balanced educating the reader on Kiowa traditions without interrupting the ongoing mysteries. And the mysteries were plentiful and very reflective of many of the issues facing Indigenous communities. I recognize that with all that, character development on its own was difficult to include. I wish there had been more of it, even with Mae herself. Though, the constant interruptions of her business in California seemed to detract from the overall story instead of adding realism and depth to it. Likewise, I found a few events included in the book unbelievable and didn't add anything to the plot itself. I hope Rowell has another book planned, with or without Mae, because despite my criticisms about the book, I really did enjoy it and want to spend more time where I felt the author was trying to take the reader!
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Set against the back ground of a Kiowa reservation, this author builds his debut book into an encompassing picture of the many problems facing Native Americans and why solutions seem to take so long to come.

The main story revolves around a young Kiowa woman who left her Oklahoma home to find success in California, where she did not share her heritage with those around her.  An emergency call will bring her back to Oklahoma.  There she must search through the many changes made in the name of progress which are really just another way to leach anything of value from the residents.

While I found the book fascinating, it did not follow any "expected" mystery rules.  There are parts that really do not have much to do with the actual mystery, but I enjoyed those too and found them educational.  So, while I would not say that this was a fast burner of a story, I will definitely recommend it to my reading circle.
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Thank you Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for the eARC. 

This book has a lot of references about the Kiowa culture which is very interesting for me. Even the issues faced by the Kiowa community, I know nothing about, so reading this was a learning experience as well. Mae, or Mud as she is known, is a strong character. I like how she leads her work in Silicon Valley seen through her phone conversations and how she leads the investigation regarding her grandfather’s disappearance and an apparent murder.

There were two main issues tackled in the duration of the book, and a lot of characters being thought of as suspects, but only one was resolved. Some actions done by Mae and Denny brought questions from me, I simple couldn’t believe it was done like that. Also, there were a lot of “villains” in her life and these people really got on my nerves. 

I just wish I had closure overall.
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I’m not sure I’ve ever been in such a quandary over a book review. The value I found in Never Name the Dead was its Kiowa storytelling and insights into Kiowa history and culture. This was exceptional contribution to literature. As a mystery, though, the novel fell far short. Much of the plot was beyond far fetched. Some scenes were painful to read - the first when Mae is trapped in a hot truck by her suitcase. The dialogue was pretty much awful.  

So—- if you have a strong interest in learning more about contemporary Kiowa culture, I think you’ll find much of value in this book. If you are looking for a well plotted, written,  and executed mystery you will probably be very disappointed (see the 1 star reviews).  This was a messy first draft that needed extensive writing help.  

NetGalley provided me with an ebook version of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
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Never Name the Dead is a beautifully written, strong mystery with interesting characters that illuminates the Kiowa culture. Mae "Mud" Sawpole left the life she grew up with amongst her tribe in Oklahoma many years ago and now has a successful advertising firm in Silicon Valley. When her grandfather calls to ask for Mud's help, she drops everything to return home, but instead of her grandfather being there to meet her at the airport, Mud is greeted by other tribe members who are looking for her grandfather, and accusing him of stealing a priceless tribe artifact. Mud teams up with her cousin Denny to find their grandfather, but they soon find themselves looking for a murderer. The story engaged me from start to finish, and I enjoyed learning about the Kiowa culture as Mud re-embraced her roots. The ending suggests a follow-up book is likely, and if so it will definitely be on my TBR.
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