Cover Image: Never Name the Dead

Never Name the Dead

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Member Reviews

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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Never Name the Dead by D.M. Rowell ⭐️⭐️💫

A big thanks to @netgalley and the publisher for the eARC. This one comes out today!

I so wanted to enjoy this book that coined itself a mystery, but I really struggled with it. First, on a personal level, I do not enjoy amateur detective tropes, and this was an extremely long version of that. Setting that aside, I struggled with the repetition and telling rather than showing. So so many things were repeated during this book to the point where I thought maybe my page didn’t actually turn. Also, the author told us exactly what everything was instead of describing it and letting the reader come to the conclusion.

The plot itself was simple and drawn out much longer than it needed to be. Editing some of the fluff out would have made it much more engaging.

My favorite part of this book was the Kiowa history insights. While some chapters could have been edited down, learning about the Kiowa tribe made this book special.

Overall, while I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I had hoped, it did make me feel like I learned a bit about the Kiowa tribe.

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Mae left her Kiowa roots for a profession in Silicon Valley, but when her grandfather sends her a cryptic message telling her to come home, she drops everything and rushes back to be with him. Only problem is, her grandfather, James Sawpole, is nowhere to be found. What she does uncover is a tangled web of crimes that may be linked to James and a tribe left in disarray. From fracking to murder to stolen tribal possessions, Mae is determined to clear her grandfather’s name and restore order to the tribe.

I really enjoyed reading this book and loved the inclusion of a Native American tribe and their native language. I thought Mae/Mud was a strong and tenacious character, and though she left behind her tribe years ago in pursuit of a professional career, she still held a special place in her heart for all of the stories she had learned from her grandfather as a child. I felt this ultimately aided her in her quest to find James and to discover the truth behind the fracking on their land and the murder of another tribal member. I was a bit surprised when I learned what really happened and who was behind it all, but at the same time, if you really paid attention to the sketchiness of some of these characters, it wasn’t too much of a surprise after all.

Definitely worth reading!

*Thank you to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for providing a copy of this book to review.*

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💭 ᴍʏ ᴛʜᴏᴜɢʜᴛꜱ:
This book was surprisingly enjoyable. I’ve read books about historical tribes before and they were too focused on detail that it was hard to follow. This is not at all the case here, it was educational and added more to the story. I loved how Mud felt so connected and proud of her heritage. I suspected every single one of these characters as they all had a motive in one way or another. It’s a quick paced murder mystery that kept me interested and hooked while being informative at the same time! 👏🏻

🤓 ʀᴇᴀᴅ ɪꜰ ʏᴏᴜ ʟɪᴋᴇ:
Strong Female Lead
Murder Mystery
Native Americans

𝘕𝘰 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘤𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘥 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘔𝘶𝘥 𝘪𝘯 𝘚𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘤𝘰𝘯 𝘝𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘺. 𝘛𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦, 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘔𝘢𝘦, 𝘢 𝘩𝘪𝘨𝘩-𝘱𝘰𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘥 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘧𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘭 𝘸𝘩𝘰 𝘩𝘢𝘥 𝘭𝘦𝘧𝘵 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘒𝘪𝘰𝘸𝘢 𝘳𝘰𝘰𝘵𝘴 𝘣𝘦𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘥 𝘢 𝘥𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘥𝘦 𝘢𝘨𝘰. 𝘉𝘶𝘵 𝘢 𝘤𝘳𝘺𝘱𝘵𝘪𝘤 𝘷𝘰𝘪𝘤𝘦 𝘮𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘢𝘨𝘦 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘧𝘢𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳, 𝘑𝘢𝘮𝘦𝘴 𝘚𝘢𝘸𝘱𝘰𝘭𝘦, 𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘰 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘩𝘰𝘮𝘦 𝘴𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘴 𝘴𝘰 𝘸𝘳𝘰𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘢𝘵𝘤𝘩𝘦𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘯𝘦𝘹𝘵 𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘖𝘬𝘭𝘢𝘩𝘰𝘮𝘢. 𝘚𝘩𝘦 𝘯𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦 𝘱𝘭𝘶𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘰 𝘢 𝘸𝘦𝘣 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘧𝘵, 𝘣𝘦𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘺𝘢𝘭, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘮𝘶𝘳𝘥𝘦𝘳.

𝘔𝘶𝘥 𝘥𝘪𝘴𝘤𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘢 𝘵𝘳𝘪𝘣𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘥𝘪𝘴𝘢𝘳𝘳𝘢𝘺. 𝘍𝘳𝘢𝘤𝘬𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘴 𝘥𝘢𝘮𝘢𝘨𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘪𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘭 𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘴, 𝘒𝘪𝘰𝘸𝘢 𝘧𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘤𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘭 𝘰𝘧𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘪𝘳 𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘪𝘧𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘴, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘧𝘳𝘢𝘤𝘬𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘯𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘬𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘧𝘢𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘸𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘴. 𝘞𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘔𝘶𝘥 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘴𝘪𝘯 𝘋𝘦𝘯𝘯𝘺 𝘥𝘪𝘴𝘤𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘧𝘢𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘮𝘪𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘢𝘤𝘤𝘶𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘰𝘧 𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘷𝘢𝘭𝘶𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘑𝘦𝘧𝘧𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘰𝘯 𝘗𝘦𝘢𝘤𝘦 𝘮𝘦𝘥𝘢𝘭 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘵𝘳𝘪𝘣𝘦 𝘮𝘶𝘴𝘦𝘶𝘮—𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘵𝘶𝘮𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘢𝘤𝘳𝘰𝘴𝘴 𝘢 𝘣𝘰𝘥𝘺 𝘪𝘯 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘬 𝘳𝘰𝘰𝘮—𝘔𝘶𝘥 𝘩𝘢𝘴 𝘯𝘰 𝘤𝘩𝘰𝘪𝘤𝘦 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘤𝘩 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘴𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘴.

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D. M. Rowell’s Never Name the Dead was the perfect National Native American Heritage Month read but will keep readers on the edge of their seats any month while also educating them about Kiowa traditions. Like her book’s narrator, author D. M. Rowell is an Oklahoma Kiowa living in California. Neither narrator nor author has forgotten her heritage.

Mae “Mud” Sawpole has been called urgently home from Silicon Valley by her grandfather, James Sawpole, a Kiowa elder. Uncertain what the problem is, busy Mae leaves a business client in the hands of co-workers and flies to Lawton-Fort Sill Regional Airport southwest of Oklahoma City, hoping to quickly return to helping her client launch a new business. Expecting her grandfather to meet her at the airport, Mae is surprised to find, not her grandfather, but three other Kiowas, each independently and frantically trying to locate him. As Mae’s worry increases, Wilson Crow, one of the Kiowas looking for him, claims to have been sent to drive her to her grandfather’s house near Medicine Park.

Feeling her life endangered by Wilson Crow and the son he stops to meet, Mae escapes with help from cousin Denny who rescues her during a fuel stop. When Denny drops her off at grandfather’s home during a storm, Mae experiences perhaps the greatest shock of her life. With her grandfather gone and reports of oil fracking on tribal lands endangering the water supply, the book’s suspense intensifies. Mae will not return to her California client as quickly as expected.

Filled with Kiowa traditions, current tribal and environmental issues, and plot surprises, Never Name the Dead was difficult to put down. As an Oklahoman, I have several times visited the beautiful part of the state serving as Rowell’s Kiowa territory setting. Although my familiarity with Southwest Oklahoma added to my enjoyment, readers can easily look online to see photos from the area if they enjoy enhancing their reading experience. No one needs prior knowledge although it is worth knowing that places mentioned are real, not fictional.
Whether you want to learn more about the Kiowa way of life or simply enjoy a good mystery, pick up a copy of D. M. Rowell’s Never Name the Dead.

Thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for a thoroughly enjoyable advance reader copy.

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Unfortunately this one did not work out for me. I felt it was scattered, the dialogue seemed stilted, and I just could not connect with any of the characters, which is very important to me. Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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Mae has made a good life for herself in Silicon Valley but she knows something is wrong when her grandpa calls her = he's a very traditional Kiowa man and this is not consistent with his approach to life. So she takes off for Lawton, Oklahoma where she walks head-on to a murder mystery, her history, and corruption. It starts when Wilson picks her up at the airport rather than her grandpa and then spirals. Who can she trust? Her cousin Denny, who nicknamed her Mud, joins her in the search for her missing grandpa, a search which, while it takes place over the course of a day, leads them into a morass. I'll admit to rolling my eyes when I saw the word fracking, which has become almost a trope in murder mysteries but Rowell takes this in a different direction as well. There are a few surprises and a twist or two that will keep you guessing. Thanks to netgalley for the ARC. A nice debut- I'm looking forward to more from Rowell.

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A debut novel with a difference, Never Name the Dead by D M Rowell is a most surprising delight of a tale. Whilst initially labelled as crime fiction, this is so much more - an epic ode to the Kiowa Nation and their oral storytelling tradition. Mud returns to her homelands after her grandfather summons her after he has taken a tribal artifact and disappeared. Tribal tensions are high with problems at the local heritage museum, with tribal artifacts being sold and illegal gas fracking occurring on tribal lands. Then a dead body is discovered and the finding of Mud’s tribal storytelling leader grandfather is crucial to resolving the escalating tensions as well as a murder to solve. An engrossing read with a lyrical narrative that captures the nuance and issues of Native Americans and their identity and belonging. The crime element is central and yet not the main factor in this must-read five star plus homage to indigenous storytelling. With heartfelt gratitude and many thanks to Crooked Lane Books and the author, for an uncorrected advanced review copy for review purposes. As always, the opinions herein are totally my own and freely given.

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Never Name the Dead brought to life the Kiowa culture in Oklahoma and the tug of war that a young woman has between her native culture and her life in California. Mae (Mud) has been summoned by her grandfather to come home and help him. Unfortunately, he is not there to pick her up at the airport and she knows very little about what he needs.

Mae along with her cousin Dennis go in search of their grandfather when it becomes apparent that something is very wrong in their tribe. Heritage items are being sold off with the profits going to a salesman and his minions, someone is fracking and stealing water from their grandfather and their is a dead body; just who was the intended victim?

Mae is also interrupted constantly by her staff back in Silicon Valley who are concerned about a client and her partner. She lives in two separate worlds and her current priority is her grandfather.

I knew nothing of the Kiowa Tribe so it was very informative but there were a number of elements that were repeated, I found that unnecessary. I was disappointed in the loose ends at the end of the book, I assume there is a sequel planned.

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for this honest review.

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Never Name the Dead is a very good debut, the story revolves around a Native American tribe, the difficulties within the tribe @nd outside influences. The story held my interest but too much happened and was solved in a day.

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"As I washed with the sage smoke, I tried to release my worries for the agency, Grandpa, and the Tribe. I physically opened, with my arms stretched to the sky above, and mentally released my spirit to the wind— opened myself to discovery. I stepped out of the pungent smoke and sent a silent prayer with the drifting smoke upward to Daw’Kee, the Creator, this time asking guidance in finding the truth."

This is one of those books where unfortunately a lot of reviewers will feel the need to overinflate their rating, something I've noticed with books related to Native Americans.

But frankly if I were just rating this as a mystery it would be 2 stars. The mystery of Mud, our protagonist's grandfather stole the tribes valued Jefferson Peace medal is the weakest part of the story. But this book has a huge cultural aspect regarding the Kiowa people and its traditions that I really enjoyed.

Still it's only a 3 star read, overall.

Thank you Crooked Lane books and netgalley for giving me an advanced review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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This book was quite different to most books out there. I liked the main character, and the tribal history, and the pace was good. Well worth a read.

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