Mercedes Lackey,
Sacred Ground
(Tor, 1994)

Jennifer Talldeer is a private investigator, and a good one. She has a good record and a reasonable relationship with the Tulsa police. She has the normal sort of caseload, including divorces and insurance fraud.

Jennifer is also an apprentice shaman, learning the ways of power from her grandfather Mooncrow. What he is teaching her is a combination of different paths, for the old magics must be changed if they are to continue to work.

Jennifer's latest case involves a contractor, Rod Calligan, who is suspected of insurance fraud. However, the case becomes murkier when sacred relics are plowed up at his construction site and a bulldozer explodes minutes later, injuring many of the workers at the site. Calligan attempts to cast blame on the Native American workers, but Jennifer thinks someone -- or something -- else is the culprit.

To make matters worse, someone has desecrated the burial ground where her powerful ancestor Watches-Over-The-Land was laid to rest and stolen the artifacts buried there. Jennifer suspects Calligan, but cannot seem to get any proof, for something is shielding him from her shamanic abilities.

And the reappearance of her ex-lover David Spotted Horse certainly isn't helping matters.

Sacred Ground is a fascinating mystery very much in the tradition of Lackey's Diana Tregarde novels. In fact, Jennifer Talldeer and Diana Tregarde are very similar. Both are diminutive, with long dark hair. Paranormal powers run in their families; Diana is a hereditary witch and Jennifer is a hereditary shaman. Diana is often hired to consult with police departments; Jennifer is a private investigator. The main differences between the two are in the matters of heredity and occupation. Where Jennifer is Native American, Diana is the descendant of European immigrants and a romance novelist.

I am not Native American, so I cannot say how accurate Lackey is in her portrayal of Native issues and feelings, but that portrayal is extremely vivid. You can feel the frustrations and joys of the characters.

Sacred Ground is the sort of book that, once you start reading it, you find yourself awake until 2 in the morning, hoping that it won't end.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]

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