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Indian Killer [Paperback]

Sherman Alexie
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 1 1998
A serial murderer is terrorizing Seattle, hunting and scalping white men. And the crimes of the so-called Indian Killer have triggered a wave of violence and racial hatred. Seattle's Native Americans are shaken and confused, none more so than John Smith. Born Indian, raised white, Smith desperately yearns for his lost heritage and seeks his elusive true identity. He meets Marie, a stormy Indian activist particularly outraged by people like Jack Wilson, the mystery writer who passes himself as part Indian. As a bigoted radio personality incites whites to seek revenge, tensions mount, Smith fights to slake the anger that engulfs him...and the Indian Killer claims yet another life. Lauded as a poet and author of exceptional lyricism and humor, Sherman Alexie now dips his pen in something stronger-and offers a gritty and eye-opening novel of alienation and justice.

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Product Description

From Amazon

Native American Sherman Alexie's new novel is a departure in tone from his lyrical and funny earlier work, which include The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven and Reservation Blues. The main character is an Indian serial killer who incites racial tension by murdering whites in retribution for his people's history. The killer leaves clear signs of his motives by scalping his victims, and leaving feathers as gestures of Indian defiance. The killer is a conflicted creation--raised by loving white parents, but twisted by loss of his identity as an Indian. Alexie layers the story with complications and ancillary characters, from a rabid talk show host, to vengeance seeking whites, to liberals who find their patronizing espousal of Indian causes no longer so easy. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In a startling departure from his earlier, more lyrical fiction, Native American novelist Alexie (Reservation Blues) weighs in with a racially charged literary thriller. Seattle is rife with racial tension as the city is terrorized by a serial murderer nicknamed "Indian Killer" because the victims, all white, are scalped and their bodies topped with a pair of white owl feathers. At the center of the novel stands the mentally disintegrating John Smith, a 6'6" Native American ignorant of his tribal roots because he was adopted and raised by white parents. As the city's racial divide increases, Marie Polatkin, a combative Spokane activist and scholarship student, organizes demonstrations and distributes sandwiches and sedition to homeless Indians, while reactionary shock-jock Truck Schultz rails on the air against casinos on reservations. Three white men with masks and baseball bats (compatriots of a murdered University of Washington student) prowl the downtown area beating any Native American they find; a trio of Indians similarly beat and knife a white boy. Through it all float a number of psychological half-breeds, among them a mystery writer who's an Indian wannabe and a buffoonish white professor of Native American literature who is forced to re-evaluate his qualifications. Over the last few years, Alexie, who is Spokane/Coeur d'Alene, has built a reputation as the next great Native American writer. This novel bolsters that contention. It displays a brilliant eye for telling detail, as well as startling control, as Alexie flips points of view among a wide array of characters without ever seeming to resort to contrivance. The narrative voice can sound detached and affectless, and some readers will miss the lyricism and humor of the author's earlier work, but this novel offers abundant evidence of a most promising talent extending its range. 75,000 first printing; $75,000 ad/promo; author tour; rights: Nancy Stauffer.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Birds of a Feather Oct. 26 2003
Format:Paperback
As I read the first half of Indian Killer, I found that I was not that interested in the story. Maybe it was the soap-opera-like writing style, switching from person to person and setting to setting, that caused me to have a mild dislike for the novel. Never once was I able to fully experience things through the mind of one of the characters, because the next chapter would undoubtedly switch characters and settings in an attempt to portray things from another perspective. But, in the end, I think that this is one of the most endearing aspects of the novel.
The novel could be said to be an exploration of how racial perceptions would play themselves out in a particularly trying circumstance. In order to show how different groups of people would react, Sherman Alexie switches from character to character. The usefulness of this approach is that one immediately sees how a person's setting, history, and ethnicity impacts his or her perception of reality. Perhaps Alexie wrote the novel to explore, in his own mind, the motivations and perceptions of different people. In fact, while Alexie does paint people in fairly broad brushstrokes, he does consistently add fine touches and nuances to give characters more depth. Depth is very important because, in real life, people are multi-faceted and can often see things from different points of view. This is especially true for people who are torn between two different worlds, i.e. American Indians who must decide between being materially successful in a white dominated world and devoting themselves to preserving their cultural heritage.
This leads me to another aspect of the novel. That is that choices do not always present themselves in an objective manner. Each person perceives events differently depending on his or her background.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Red Matters June 23 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Although this book is from the mid-90s, it has relevance that reaches beyond the last part of 20th C. America.
Still, it has its limitations. Alexie, unwittingly paints a portait of natives as being tragic and broken, perpetuating the idea that we are the "vanishing race." He reuses a few too many points leftover from "First Indian on the Moon" and echoed later in "Toughest Indian in the World."
One of the weakest points was portraying John Smith as a possible schizophrenic, meaning the mental instability stemmed from his lack of identity or that it was the sole cause of his troubles. Would Smith have been as angry, lost, or destructive if he had been sane?
Marie Polatkin is just a cardboard cut-out of his similiarly named, oriented characters. "Beautiful" is a word he continues to use to describe her with, so much so that it loses its meaning. All natives are supposed to be beautiful, untouchable creatures for display and romanticization, eh?
Alexie knows how to write, and he knows how to write about native americans. He's probably the best, most influential writer working today. Actually, if you haven't read his other books, read this one because it says it all.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Indian Killer Dec 5 2002
Format:Paperback
Sherman Alexie's mystery novel "Indian Killer" grabs the readers attention from page one. One finds themselve looking over their shoulder while reading thinking that they may just be the next victim. The title of the book itself conveys a dual message to the reader making one reconsider who is commiting the horrible crimes inside the book. This Native American novel appeals to both male and female readers of all ages because it deals with controversial issues that are very much prevelant in today's society.
John Smith, an Indian raised white, yearns desperately for his lost heritage as he seeks to find his true identity. In Seattle John meets Marie, an Indian rights activist at the local university, who together grow inraged at the local people who try to act Indian such as writer Jack Wilson. Murders throughout the city are taking place which appears to be committed by an outraged Indian who leaves behind two owl feathers. The local bigoted disc-jockey creates a division amongst the whites and Indians. His programs incite violence and before long...the Indian Killer strikes again.
"The killer saw the fear in the white man's blue eyes. The man's fear inspired the killer's confidence. The killer slid a hand beneath the jacket and felt for the knife."
This novel will keep you on the edge of your seat just wondering who is murdering these innocent people. This is a great novel that not only stimulates the mind but also educates. I give it a big thumbs up.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Second half lags July 19 2002
Format:Paperback
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.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking
Nicely done. Made me wonder why First Nations people don't actually have any serial killers out there... why don't First Nations people 'snap'? Hmmm. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Homeschooling Mom
4.0 out of 5 stars Indian Killer: A killer book
As a quater Cherokee I was interested what a current Native American piece of literature written by an actual Native American would be like. Would it be boring? Read more
Published on Oct. 14 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Its Okay
This is a good book and i would recomend it to someone with a short atention span. This book will wrap you up and you will not wantto put it down. Read more
Published on Oct. 14 2003 by Depp
4.0 out of 5 stars Indian Killer or Killer Indian?
This book is great, it may seem slightly lengthy before you start reading, but it moves very quickly. Read more
Published on June 27 2003 by Agent Grant Hawley
5.0 out of 5 stars Alexie
Sherman Alexie is an excellent author, whos books touch those who have read them. Alexie's way of writing is a unique and uninhabitabal island, in which only he has the key. Read more
Published on March 19 2003 by Josh M.
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than a murder mystery
I have enjoyed Alexie's poetry and short stories for a long time. Indian Killer was very poetic in its own way. It plays on your prejudices and expectations. Read more
Published on Oct. 27 2002 by Rachel Andrews
5.0 out of 5 stars INDIAN KILLER
I think that the book Indian Killer is very good. It is about a kid that gets adopted by 2 white people and will not tell him his tribe because they do not know it. Read more
Published on Oct. 17 2002 by Sierra
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't Expect it to be Spelled out for you
After writing a very long thesis on the influence of Christianity on Native American Tribes, I was drawn to this book because it seemed like a departure from all the intellectual... Read more
Published on July 7 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't Expect it to be Spelled out for you
After writing a very long thesis on the influence of Christianity on Native American Tribes, I was drawn to this book because it seemed like a departure from all the intellectual... Read more
Published on July 7 2002
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