24 Best Mystery Novels Featuring Native American Detectives

24 Best Mystery Novels Featuring Native American Detectives

Our list of best mystery books featuring native american detectives are a great starting point for readers who are interested in exploring new mystery novels in this space. Follow these memorable characters in stories that are guaranteed to keep you wanting more.

Best Mystery Novels Featuring Native American Detectives: Titles

Our 24 titles here include classic as well as contemporary books by authors such as Edgar winning Dana Stabenow to William Kent Krueger.

Best Mystery Novels Featuring Native American Detectives: Descriptions

The Blessing Way (Leaphorn & Chee, Book 1) by Tony Hillerman. Homicide is always an abomination, but there is something exceptionally disturbing about the victim discovered in a high, lonely place—a corpse with a mouth full of sand—abandoned at a crime scene seemingly devoid of tracks or useful clues. Though it goes against his better judgment, Navajo Tribal Police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn cannot help but suspect the hand of a supernatural killer.

There is palpable evil in the air, and Leaphorn’s pursuit of a Wolf-Witch leads him where even the bravest men fear, on a chilling trail that winds perilously between mysticism and murder.

Deep Creek by Dana Hand. Idaho Territory, June 1887. A small-town judge takes his young daughter fishing, and she catches a man. Another body surfaces, then another. The final toll: over thirty Chinese gold miners brutally murdered. Their San Francisco employer hires Idaho lawman Joe Vincent to solve the case.

Soon he journeys up the wild Snake River with Lee Loi, an ambitious young company investigator, and Grace Sundown, a métis mountain guide with too many secrets. As they track the killers across the Pacific Northwest, through haunted canyons and city streets, each must put aside lies and old grievances to survive a quest that will change them forever.

Deep Creek is a historical thriller inspired by actual events and people: the 1887 massacre of Chinese miners in remote and beautiful Hells Canyon, the brave judge who went after their slayers, and the sham race-murder trial that followed.

The Shaman Laughs (Charlie Moon, Book 2) by James D. Doss. Charlie Moon is no stranger to the mysterious ways of the spirit world. But why is prize livestock being ritualistically butchered in the Canyon of the Spirit? That’s what Granite Creek’s chief of police Scott Parish wants to find out…before human blood begins to spill.

Enter Moon’s aunt and aging Ute shaman Daisy Perika. For only she who communes with the ancient spirits can truly comprehend the events that have happened upon Native American lands—and the even greater evil that is yet to be unleashed.

A Cold Day For Murder (Kate Shugak Book 1) by Dana Stabenow. Somewhere in the hinterlands of Alaska, among the millions of sprawling acres that comprise “The Park,” a young National Park Ranger has gone missing.

When the detective sent after him also vanishes, the Anchorage DA’s department must turn to their reluctant former investigator, Kate Shugak. Shugak knows The Park because she’s of The Park, an Aleut who left her home village of Niniltna to pursue education, a career, and justice in an unjust world. Kate’s search for the missing men will take her from self-imposed exile back to a life she’d left behind, and face-to-face with people and problems she’d hoped never to confront again.

The first novel in the popular Kate Shugak Series, A Cold Day for Murder established Dana Stabenow as a new voice in Alaskan mystery writing, and earned her an Edgar Award.

A Thief of Time (Leaphorn & Chee, Book 8) by Tony Hillerman. From New York Times bestselling author Tony Hillerman, A Thief of Time is the eighth novel featuring Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and Officer Jim Chee as they find themselves in hot pursuit of a depraved killer.

At a moonlit Indian ruin where “thieves of time” ravage sacred ground in the name of profit, a noted anthropologist vanishes while on the verge of making a startling, history-altering discovery. Amid stolen goods and desecrated bones, two corpses are discovered, shot by bullets fitting the gun of the missing scientist.

There are modern mysteries buried in despoiled ancient places, and Navajo Tribal Policemen Leaphorn and Chee must plunge into the past to unearth an astonishing truth and a cold-hearted killer. In his breakout novel, Hillerman paints a stunning portrait of the psychology of murder—and offers a heart-rending example of love and forgiveness.

Shadow Woman (Jane Whitefield, Book 3) by Thomas Perry. In her latest adventure, Jane Whitefield, who helps people in trouble disappear from one life and establish a new identity, is hired by a Las Vegas gambling casino executive running from contract killers. But the killers are on the trail of the shadow woman and soon Jane becomes the principle target of their rage and revenge.

Blackening Song (Ella Clah, #1) by Aimée Thurlo. Ella Clah returns to the reservation to investigate the murder of her father, a minister. The ritual nature of the killing makes Ella’s brother, a medicine man, the prime suspect.

Without cooperation from the tribe, the FBI, or the local police, Ella must plumb the depths of the struggle between traditionalist and modernist forces among the Navajo to find her father’s murderer.

At the Publisher’s request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

The Poison of War by Jennifer Leeper. When detective Frank Silva of the Tohono O’odham Nation arrived at the scene of the crime he immediately feared his investigation would require him to turn inward–to his own people–in search of the killer.

A complex web of lies, love and intrigue in the heart of the reservation pulls readers into a place and time in limbo straddling the U.S.-Mexican border which is struggling to retain its heritage and independence.Two maverick detectives form an intriguing team trusting each other with not only their lives, but with the fate of the Tohono O’odham Nation in the crime mystery.

The Poison of War, from award-winning author Jennifer Leeper, highlights the Tohono O’odham reservation’s evolving struggle against Mexican cartels and their friction with border agents who hold the line stretching across the middle of the reservation.

The novella’s setting of the American Southwest, particularly on a Native American reservation, and the style and cultural background of the detective protagonist draw resemblances to Tony Hillerman’s works including Dance Hall of the Dead and The Blessing Way.

For fans of Leeper’s work and fortuitous newcomers, The Poison of War is a stunning tale that highlights timely issues of the U.S.-Mexico border, immigration, drug trafficking and the reservation culture of the Tohono O’odham tribe.

Copper River (Cork O’Connor, Book 6) by William Kent Krueger. In well-crafted settings that are beautiful and unforgiving, with unforgettable characters and jaw-dropping surprises, William Kent Krueger’s Cork O’Connor thrillers have drawn a flood of awards and praise.

The latest in the series finds the sheriff running for his life from professional hit men who have already put a bullet through his leg. Desperate, he finds sanctuary outside a small town called Bodine on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in an old resort owned by his cousin, Jewell DuBois.

Though Jewell, a bitter widow whose husband may have been killed by cops, keeps Cork at arm’s length, her fourteen-year-old son, Ren, is looking for a friend. But being a father figure to Ren will prove more difficult than Cork could possibly imagine.

When the body of a young girl surfaces along the banks of the Copper River and another teenager vanishes, Cork must choose between helping to solve these deadly mysteries and thwarting the hit men who draw closer to him with every hour. Recklessly, he turns from his own worries and focuses on tracking the conspiracy of killers before Ren and his best friend, Charlie, fall victim.

It’s an error — one a good man might make — but as the contract killers who are hunting him close in, Cork realizes too late that it may be the last mistake he’ll ever make.

The trail left by the dead girl eventually leads to a shelter for homeless youth and into the grim reality of children lost and abandoned, who become easy prey for the perverted appetites of human predators. All small towns have buried secrets but, as Cork soon learns, this one has more than its share.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich. The Round House won the National Book Award for fiction. One of the most revered novelists of our time—a brilliant chronicler of Native-American life—Louise Erdrich returns to the territory of her bestselling, Pulitzer Prize finalist The Plague of Doves with The Round House, transporting readers to the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota.

It is an exquisitely told story of a boy on the cusp of manhood who seeks justice and understanding in the wake of a terrible crime that upends and forever transforms his family.

White Sky, Black Ice (Nathan Active Mystery, Book 1) by Stan Jones. In the small Alaskan village of Chukchi, what are the odds of two suicides occurring in a matter of a few days? State trooper Nathan Active discovers that his suspicions concerning the deaths are well-founded; the two men were murdered. But what was the motive and who killed them?

Cry Dance (Emmett Parker and Anna Turnipseed Book 1) by Kirk Mitchell. If there’s one thing Bureau of Indian Affairs Investigator Emmet Quanah Parker knows, it’s that the dead don’t always stay dead. With him he carries the ghosts of a partner killed in action, three failed marriages, and a long affair with the bottle. And now he’s about to face the most dangerous case of his career–one that begins with a body that doesn’t stay buried.

Brutally murdered and bizarrely mutilated, a woman’s corpse is discovered on Havasupai Nation land. Parker is paired with FBI Special Agent Anna Turnipseed in a hastily assembled task force of two. The two share a mixed Native American ancestry…and little else. As they are pulled deeper into a complex case, Parker suspects they are being led–like Custer into Little Bighorn–into a killer’s trap, with Anna the bait and Parker himself the quarry. At the heart of it are the dead, with history the most lethal weapon of all.

Nail’s Crossing (Bill Maytubby & Hannah Bond Mystery Book 1) by Kris Lackey. This debut mystery from a fresh voice in Southwestern fiction stakes out the common ground between Tony Hillerman, Elmore Leonard, and Cormac McCarthy.

In a remote corner of the Chickasaw Nation, tribal Lighthorse policeman Bill Maytubby and county deputy Hannah Bond discover the buzzard-ravaged body of Majesty Tate, a young drifter with a blank past. They comb Oklahoma’s rock prairie, river bottoms, and hard-bitten small towns for traces of her last days.

Tate was seen dancing with Austin Love, a violent local meth dealer fresh out of prison. An Oklahoma City motel clerk connects her with an aspiring politician. An oil-patch roustabout and a shady itinerant preacher provide dubious leads. Ne’er-do-wells start dying off.

A fluke lead propels Maytubby deep into Louisiana’s bayou country, where a Cajun shrimper puts him on the scent of a bizarre conspiracy. He and Bond reunite in the Chickasaw Nation for the eventual face-off at Nail’s Crossing.

The Ft. Larned Incident (Tay-Bodal Mystery Book 4) by Mardi Oakley Medawar. In 1868, following the signing of the Medicine Lodge Treaty, things are not going well for the Kiowa. Their promised lands went to another tribe, their promised goods have not arrived, and the bored and tense warriors are becoming more and more unruly. When the Indian agent once again fails to live up to his promises, he is run off by the Kiowa and the agent’s assistant sends them off to Ft. Larned to receive their annuities.

All the while, Tay-bodal – a healer and member of the Rattle Band – is enduring a personal crisis. A fight with his wife has escalated to the point where he has moved out, his wife is seen with a very eligible bachelor, and divorce seems inevitable. Tay-bodal is therefore not in the best frame of mind he is called upon to investigate a murder amongst the bands.

Three Elks, a fond acquaintance of Tay-bodal and son of another chief, has been murdered. The one accused of killing him is a member of the Rattle Band. To make matters worse, the is the same man who has been plotting to steal Tay-bodal’s wife. Now, if Tay-bodal cannot put aside his own dislike and prove that the accused innocent – and quickly – then there will be war between the bands, tearing apart what remains of the Kiowa nation.

The K-Frost Caper by James Blakley. A cold case heats up when Kelvin Frost, believed to have drowned in Alabama, returns from the dead to apply for more life insurance. Or has he? When a body—a dead body—identified as Kelvin Frost, turns up in Miami, murder complicates matters.

Enter Luna Nightcrow, the insurance fraud investigator whose “smartphone never sleeps.” After recovering a valuable Cherokee relic, Nightcrow accepts Charmed Life Mutual Insurance’s offer of $50,000 to sniff out and close down the K-Frost Caper. But it won’t be easy with so few leads or clues. That doesn’t surprise Luna. After all, when is the last time anyone saw Frost … in Miami?

Dance Hall of the Dead (Leaphorn & Chee, Book 2) by Tony Hillerman. Two Native-American boys have vanished into thin air, leaving a pool of blood behind them. Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn of the Navajo Tribal Police has no choice but to suspect the very worst, since the blood that stains the parched New Mexican ground once flowed through the veins of one of the missing, a young Zuñi.

But his investigation into a terrible crime is being complicated by an important archaeological dig…and a steel hypodermic needle. And the unique laws and sacred religious rites of the Zuñi people are throwing impassable roadblocks in Leaphorn’s already twisted path, enabling a craven murderer to elude justice or, worse still, to kill again.

The Fat of The Land by R. Allen Chappell. Everyone has a story …but not every story has a hero.

This collection from New Mexico and the Southwest is about those who give life to that land – the outliers, and those who have no one to tell their tale. While some of these narratives are loosely based in fact, they are written with a large dollop of literary license.

The characters are not “politically correct” in today’s parlance and speak in the vernacular of their time and culture. Some of them you will like …others you may not. No disrespect or offense is intended in the telling. These are their stories.

Prayer of the Dragon (Inspector Shan, Book 5) by Eliot Pattison. Shan Tao Yun, formerly an investigator in Beijing, has been asked to help save a comatose man. The man is believed to be guilty of two murders in which the victims’ arms were removed—but when the detective arrives, he discovers that the suspect is not actually Tibetan, but Navajo.

The man has come here with his niece, seeking the ancestral ties between their people and the ancient Bon. Together with his friends, the monks Gendun and Lokesh, Shan must not only sort out the crime’s true perpetrator, but attempt to solve the riddle of a mountain that is said to be the place “where the world begins”.

Skinwalker (Jane Yellowrock, Book 1) by Faith Hunter. Jane Yellowrock is the last of her kind—a skinwalker of Cherokee descent who can turn into any creature she desires and hunts vampires for a living. But now she’s been hired by Katherine Fontaneau, one of the oldest vampires in New Orleans and the madam of Katies’s Ladies, to hunt a powerful rogue vampire who’s killing other vamps.

Amidst a bordello full of real “ladies of the night,” and a hot Cajun biker with a panther tattoo who stirs her carnal desire, Jane must stay focused and complete her mission—or else the next skin she’ll need to save just may be her own.

Talking to Wendigo by John C. Goodman. When a local guide goes missing in the woods north of Lake Superior, William Longstaffe, a retired English professor who retreated to the isolation of his cabin in the wilderness after the death of his wife, unwillingly becomes involved in the search for the missing man–and the eventual discovery of his body. The trail soon leads to more deaths and the haunting legend of a lost gold mine.

Northwest Angle (Cork O’Connor, Book 11) by William Kent Krueger. With his family caught in the crosshairs of a group of brutal killers, detective Cork O’Connor must solve the murder of a young girl in the latest installment of William Kent Krueger’s unforgettable New York Times bestselling series.

During a houseboat vacation on the remote Lake of the Woods, a violent gale sweeps through unexpectedly, stranding Cork and his daughter, Jenny, on a devastated island where the wind has ushered in a force far darker and more deadly than any storm.

Amid the wreckage, Cork and Jenny discover an old trapper’s cabin where they find the body of a teenage girl. She wasn’t killed by the storm, however; she’d been bound and tortured before she died. Whimpering sounds coming from outside the cabin lead them to a tangle of branches toppled by the vicious winds.

Underneath the debris, they find a baby boy, hungry and dehydrated, but still very much alive. Powerful forces intent on securing the child pursue them to the isolated Northwest Angle, where it’s impossible to tell who among the residents is in league with the devil. Cork understands that to save his family he must solve the puzzle of this mysterious child whom death follows like a shadow.

A Time to Wail: An Indian Country Novel by Grace Elting Castle. Ellie Carlisle returns to her childhood home on the Siletz Indian Reservation to bury her son. She’s prepared to spend the next few months struggling with her grief before even thinking about moving on with her life.

But when the former investigator is hired by the tribal council to investigate grave robberies, Ellie begins to wonder if they’re connected to the murder of her aunt, a crime for which her cousin sits in prison. What follows is a quest for answers while Ellie faces death threats, a hateful sheriff, an ill-advised attraction to another detective, and the possible revelation of secrets from her past.

Grace Elting Castle’s novel explores grief, family relationships, and long-buried secrets against the backdrop of an Indian reservation fighting for restoration and the repercussions of a crime that rocked a family.

Ancient Ones by Kirk Mitchell. Kirk Mitchell won acclaim with his first two suspense novels featuring Bureau of Indian Affairs Criminal Investigator Emmett Quanah Parker and FBI Special Agent Anna Turnipseed. Now the author of Cry Dance and Spirit Sickness pairs Parker and Turnipseed once more, to investigate a case where the discovery of a mysterious skeleton on an Oregon Indian reservation will pit the demands of modern forensics against traditional tribal laws.

Though there are signs of foul play, Emmett Quanah Parker and Anna Turnipseed aren’t looking for a killer — the remains dug out of a riverbank by an illegal fossil hunter are 14,000 years old. Parker and Turnipseed are sent to central Oregon as official witnesses to the examination of John Day Man, as he is dubbed, for the bones have quickly provoked a controversy that threatens to erupt into violence: the skeleton is not Native American but distinctly Caucasian, shattering long-held tenets concerning who the first inhabitants of this continent were.

Emmett, with his Comanche and white ancestry, and Anna, a reservation-born Modoc with Asian blood, share a sensitivity to both parties’ concerns — and a forbidden attraction that’s causing them professional and personal problems. They’ve broken the unwritten law that partners should never get emotionally involved. Having crossed that line, Emmett and Anna are too distracted by each other to see the escalating suspicion and fear around them when a young tribal anthropologist is swallowed by the misty night and within hours of her disappearance the fossil hunter who discovered the skeleton is found disemboweled.

The Warm Springs Indians insist that the unburied bones of the Ancient One have been turned into a skep, a murderous spirit that haunts the darkness. As winter closes in on the steppes of the Columbia Plateau, accusations of ritualized murder fly between the Indian and white communities — and the fight turns deadly when a second skeleton is unearthed.

In the midst of the turmoil, Emmett and Anna are paralyzed by their own demons. This estrangement could prove deadly if they stop watching each other’s back long enough for a killer to target them too. And at the center of it all are the Ancient Ones, exacting a terrible price as the dark path to resolution runs a gauntlet through the boneyards of prehistory.

Death at Rainy Mountain (Tay-Bodal Mystery Book 1) by Mardi Oakley Medawar. On a scalding summer day in 1866, the Kiowa Nation gathered at Rainy Mountain to witness the magnificent Cheyenne Robber standing before them—charged with murdering a fellow tribesman. It was a day Tay-bodal would never forget. A day that threatened to tear the unity of the entire Kiowa Nation.

Known as a wanderer and eccentric healer, Tay-bodal was always on the outside of the clan. Now, for the first time in his life, Tay-bodal’s unconventional ways will prove invaluable to the survival of the Kiowa Nation. He has just five days to find the truth behind the murder. But Tay-bodal will discover more than truth. He will embark on a journey so spiritual, so important, that he will finally know what it is to be a Kiowa Indian.


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