Monday, October 12, 2020

The Only Good Indians - Stephen Graham Jones

Summary: Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way. (Summary and pic from

My Review: I’m excited to be reviewing this book during the spooky season of the year. I am one of those people who has no problem reading scary/creepy/mysterious/horror books at any time of the year. I love them whenever! However, I do feel like I need to be planning ahead of what I’m going to read to get me in to the optimal Halloween mood. Murder? Ghosts? Paranormal activity? Zombies? Vampires? Scary houses? Creepy people? Lore? Cultural myths and creatures? The possibilities are endless and delightful! Today I bring you a review of a book that is fun because it covers several of the topics I listed above in a possible Halloween mishmash of delight.

The Only Good Indians starts out like any good crime book with a nod and some background to the situation that stirred all this madness up. I always like this, and often find myself reading this part again after I’ve read the whole book just to figure out all the things I didn’t know that I didn’t know. Once it launches in to the telling of the story, things seem normal enough, as far as a crime book goes. As the book goes on, however, it becomes very obvious that things are not what they seem—there is a crime, yes, but then there are more crimes of passion and murder, and all underlying it and fortifying it is Native American beliefs, stories, and characters who flesh out what is happening and why. It’s great! I always love stories based on culture, and Stephen Graham Jones does a great job of this.

One of the things I really appreciated about this book was the Native American perspective that the author brings. It’s one thing for an outsider to observe and state what they think about the Navajo and Blackfeet culture, and how it has evolved over the centuries, but completely another for one to comment on their own culture (the author is Blackfeet Native American). There are things about relationships between tribes, relationships to land, relationships to each other that we can’t fathom unless we are let in by one who is part of it, and I was grateful for Stephen Graham Jones doing this in such a way that I felt like I was able to get a glimpse into this very important Native culture. I thought the characters were interesting and added viewpoints (because of course not everyone feels the same, even about their own shared experiences and history), and I felt like this story did a great job of discussing a culture that is within two worlds—the historical and the recent.
Let’s talk about the horror of this book. Oh, there is definitely some! The entity that comes to haunt the characters because of a past event is fearsome and frightening! I don’t want to give too much away, but suffice it to say that I thought it was very scary, and its idea of retribution and why it existed was fascinating but also deliciously scary. This part of the story was confusing at times, just because I think I was messing up which characters were which. However, my confusion did not interfere with the horror of it all. That was loud and clear!

This is a great book if you are in to Native American culture and lore, or even if you’re just a crime or horror reader. It will be a great, creepy ready for your Halloween season!

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader: There is violence, language, and referral to sex (although nothing graphic). I would say that if you read this genre, you’ll be fine with this book.

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