The title INDIAN KILLER is a double entendre in that on the surface the novel is about a madman who is murdering white men in Seattle. On another level, the book is about a young Indian boy who is adopted by a white couple, effectively murdering his identity. Olivia and Daniel Smith try to do everything in their power to make sure that their son, John, learns about his heritage, doing research on Native American history and culture, having him baptized by a Jesuit Indian, taking him to powwows. But the adoption agency refuses to reveal his tribe, and John becomes increasingly alienated. When John is old enough for college, he refuses to go, opting instead for a job working on the last skyscraper in Seattle.
The beginning of the book is quite enjoyable as we meet a number of interesting characters: Marie, a radical student, who attends a class on Native American Literature to heckle the professor; her cousin Reggie, who had been expelled because he'd assaulted the same professor; Jack Wilson, a mystery writer who claimed to be an Indian (he's working on a novel about the Indian killer and he sees John as the human embodiment of Aristotle Little Hawk, his Indian protagonist). Almost everybody in the novel is either an Indian or a wannabe Indian.
The second half leaves a lot to be desired, as young white men take the murders out on homeless Indians, beating them with baseball bats. The Indians fight back, the whites retaliate. Seattle becomes a miniature Middle East. Alexie is also trying to have it both ways, lifting elements of the conventional mystery (The murderer is referred to as "the killer"; he could be just about anybody in the story) and also trying to make some kind of radical statement: the white man better watch out because the Indians are dancing. I enjoyed THE LONE RANGER AND TONTO FISTFIGHT IN HEAVEN, but this one needed a serious rewrite.