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Murder on the Red River

Kirkus Reviews
"A coming of age story."
A wild child uneasily transplanted from the White Earth Reservation to a rented house in Fargo meets murder.Though she needs a bogus ID to get served at the bars where she shoots a mean game of pool, Cash, nee Renee Blackbear, 19, already has a lot of miles on her. Taken away from the rez as a child, she's been in and out of more foster homes than she can remember; she's been smoking and drinking since she was 11; and she doesn't mind the fact that her latest lover, farmer Jim Jenson, is married. But even Cash has never seen a murdered man before the August day in 1970 when she follows a radio announcement about a dead body to the Minnesota side of the Red River, where she finds her long-suffering guardian, Sheriff Wheaton, standing over the corpse of a stabbing victim presumed to have come from the Red Lake Reservation. Wheaton has no jurisdiction over a federal reservation, but that doesn't stop Cash, driven by another of the vivid waking dreams she's known for, from driving her Ranchero the 100-plus miles to Red Lake to ask Josie Day Dodge where her husband is. The dead man is indeed Josie Day's husband, nicknamed Tony O for baseball skills that rival those of Twins star Tony Oliva, and another vision brings Cash perilously close to the three men who killed him. The plot in Rendon's adult debut never exactly thickens—this is more coming-of-age story than mystery—but the spare prose-poetry of her descriptions and dialogue is a lot more interesting than anything she has to say about crime or detection.
- February 1, 2017  Visit Website
Publishers Weekly
"Feisty, sensitive, and smart."
An appealing 19-year-old heroine, Renee “Cash” Blackbear, lifts Rendon’s first mystery, set in Fargo, N.Dak., and — on the other side of the Red River — Moorhead, Minn. Sheriff Wheaton rescued Cash at age three in the aftermath of the accident in which her drunken mother rolled the family car containing Cash and her brother and sister. Lawfully separated from her family in what she considers a kidnapping, Cash grew up in a series of foster homes. Feisty, sensitive, and smart, Cash is now a farm laborer and a pool shark, and her only real friend is Wheaton. When she hears a radio announcer say one morning that Wheaton has found a body in a field on the Minnesota side of the river, she drives to the crime scene. There Wheaton enlists her aid in investigating the stabbing death of Day Dodge, a native worker from the Red Lake Reservation. Mystery readers should know that Rendon, the author of Pow Wow Summer and other children’s books, focuses more on the abuses Native Americans suffer than on the efforts to solve Dodge’s brutal murder.
- January 27, 2017  Visit Website
Minneapolis Star Tribune
"This accomplished author has clearly undertaken more than a murder story … she finds new depth and an ample storytelling platform for her informed views on the historic persecution of Indians."
In her debut mystery novel, Marcie R. Rendon, a member of the White Earth Anishinabe Nation, casts us into the stark world of Cash, a pool-playing, Bud-swilling, Marlboro-smoking wisp of a thing. Cash has dark braids down to her butt and an aloof, independent air that plays well in the bars but doesn’t help her future.

She lives in Fargo, Siamese twin to Minnesota’s Moorhead, two towns drawing their life blood from the Red River. The agricultural heartland and the rugged nature of the people who work it both play deeply into the story of this White Earth Anishinabe orphan. Cash’s best friend and guardian is Sheriff Wheaton, a stout lawman of Scandinavian stock who pulled her out of a car crash that killed her mother when Cash was just 3. As Cash grows up, Wheaton learns that there’s more depth to Cash than her spartan words and don’t-mess-with-me manner might suggest.

Young Cash was thrust into the foster system, a rough-and-tumble series of strict and uncaring families that eschewed her culture and put her to work as a housekeeper and farm laborer. Now 19, she has left those unhappy memories behind and is “driving truck” for the grain and beet farmers around Fargo.

With barely enough to pay the rent, Cash picks up money shooting pool at watering holes and honky-tonks. She sees her life as “a living, breathing country western song.” A reader’s early impression is that this is a stereotypical, off-the-reservation girl who has had her culture stamped out of her and wanders aimlessly from one hard knock to the next.

But Sheriff Wheaton is right that there’s more to Cash. This girl sees things. Visions about people or places that she cannot possibly know. Dreams that haunt her with importance but leave her searching for their meaning. One day she shows up at a murder scene after a body is found in a wheat field, and a vivid picture of the dead man’s home on the Red Lake Reservation storms into her head. She gets pulled into the investigation and finds herself in a confrontation that requires all her ingenuity just to get out alive.

Along the way we meet two colorful characters: Jim (her married pool partner and sometimes lover) and Long Braids (now this is heading somewhere), on his way to Minneapolis to be an activist.

This accomplished author has clearly undertaken more than a murder story. Rendon uses the novel as a vehicle for shameful reminders, political and cultural lessons about the devastation that American policies have rained on Indian families and children.

Rendon has drawn numerous accolades for previous works that include a children’s book, “Pow Wow Summer.” But in this, her first mystery, she finds new depth and an ample storytelling platform for her informed views on the historic persecution of Indians.
- March 10, 2017  Visit Website
Twin Cities Pioneer Press
"[Marcie] Rendon delves deep into the history of Native American communities and the danger of forcing assimilation on a community outside the mainstream of American cultural norms."
The author, an enrolled member of the White Earth Anishinabe Nation and a Minnesota Book Award finalist, makes her mystery debut. The novel’s protagonist, Cash, is an orphan born into a White Earth Anishinabe family but raised mostly by herself and the child welfare system. She has a way of “knowing,” seeing events she is not present at unfold in her mind. Rendon delves deep into the history of Native American communities and the danger of forcing assimilation on a community outside the mainstream of American cultural norms.

- February 23, 2017  Visit Website
Jeff Berglund, Ph.D., Director of Liberal Studies, Northern Arizona University
“Marcie Rendon’s portrait of a Native woman detective is vibrant and rooted in the complexities of history and a place haunted by a violent past that refuses to loosen its grip.”

Lisa Sandlin, The Do-Right, winner of the Dashiell Hammet award
“Marcie Rendon’s debut, Murder on Red River, features the magnetic Cash: aged-out foster child, girl pool shark, truck driver from Minnesota’s White Earth reservation. When a native man from nearby Red Lake is knifed, her cop friend Wheaton, a Longmire-type, enlists her help. Cash’s search takes her through her own hardscrabble memories of family and land sorrowfully lost—a journey that Rendon writes of with flat-out authority.”

Debbie Reese
“Cash. That’s what most people call the 19-year-old Chippewa woman Renee Blackbear in Rendon’s searing, soaring, and ultimately unflinching story of how Native people persevere in the face of policies and people that seek to destroy the essence of who they are.” 

David Beaulieu, Ph.D., Professor of American Indian Education, University of Minnesota, Duluth. Enrolled White Earth Ojibwe
“Cash’s life experiences emerge as both landscape and resource to an investigation that engages the reader to the end.”

Gwen Danfelt, Drury Lane Books
“What kept me reading was getting to know Cash under her tough exterior, watching her come to terms with her harrowing, unjust past in white foster homes and fight to stop the next generation of Indian kids from suffering the same fate. Rendon’s descriptions capture the rural layout of the Midwest in the 1970’s, expanses of farms and nothingness between small towns populated with churches and bars, and the persistent smell of wheat and earth. Not so much has changed in rural culture today.”

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