The Spirit Keepers Review
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Kachina. The word feels alive, conjuring up the haunting voices and vivid, colorful images of masked dancers. In native tradition, Kachinas are powerful spirits that teach the ways of life to the next generation. In her second novel, author J. K. Winn looks at what might happen if evil took on the form of Kachinas in a pueblo village.

Sandy Jacobs is baffled by strange and alarming incidents on the reservation where she recently moved to take a teaching job. A woman is inexplicably scolded and shamed for trying to buy milk in a convenience store. A brawl breaks out at the funeral of a young child. And a man suddenly pulls off the side of a back road, checks to make sure he’s not seen, pulls out a gun, and starts killing off...a herd of sheep?

There’s a mysterious illness plaguing the tribe and killing the children, and it’s rumored that witchcraft is to blame. The solution, many say, is to evict the family suspected of the practice. But Sandy is convinced there’s a scientific explanation, and is determined to expose the truth, despite meeting resistance at every turn. Even Ben Rush, a handsome fellow teacher whom she’s dating, insists that it’s not her place to meddle in tribal affairs.

But the game changes when, one terrifying night, visitors in Kachina costume come to the accused family’s home, shrieking, breaking windows, and threatening even greater violence if they don’t leave the reservation. And because Sandy has taken up their cause, she begins receiving anonymous threats on her own life as well.

The Spirit Keepers delivers a romantic mystery with warmth, intrigue, and thrills. The author fleshes out a heroine who recognizes that rumors aren’t facts, and that fear and anger can move through a village like wildfire.

This is a clever, multi-layered novel full of “spirits”—both seen and unseen. The character of Sandy is grieving a loss, a spirit missing in her own family, and she feels it so acutely that she tightly bonds with the endangered family—even if it puts her directly in the line of fire. Ben is the opposite; he has a similar loss, but his response is to run away from that spirit, and this conflict fuels the push-pull of their romantic entanglement.

Most of all, though, this is a thriller, and what could be more blood-chilling than masked, supernatural beings that set fires and scream in the night? Look for sudden twists, red herrings, a love triangle, politics, and plenty of stop-your-breath moments as the romantic duo sorts out the good from the evil spirits in the tribe.

Finally, author J. K. Winn has a gift for backdrop, and this novel is no exception. She uses the troubled-but-noble partner Ben as a native guide to the traditions of the tribe, including a visit to a colorful wise elder. Ben is also the spiritual center of the novel, taking Sandy—and the reader—to experience the spellbinding peace and beauty of the mesa.

So whether you enjoy culture, the southwest, or just a captivating romantic thriller, you’ll find something to keep you turning the pages of this riveting story.

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