Indian Killer
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Indian Killer

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  4,588 ratings  ·  386 reviews
“Part thriller, part magical realism, and part social commentary, Indian Killer . . . lingers long past the final page.”—Seattle Weekly

A national best seller, Indian Killer is arguably Sherman Alexie’s most controversial book to date—a gritty, racially charged literary thriller that, over a decade after its first publication, remains an electrifying tale of alienation and...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published July 1st 2008 by Grove Press (first published January 1st 1996)
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Rachel
Jun 23, 2007 Rachel rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who have dealt with white guilt
This was my introduction to Sherman Alexie, and I still think it is his best work that I've read to date. The title itself made me question my thought processes, as I immediately envisioned a book replaying and displaying the historical themes of colonization and genocide against Native Americans in a modernized plot. This is, of course, what Alexie is doing, but the story centers around a couple of local murders attributed to an "Indian Killer" -- an Indian who kills, not someone who kills Indi...more
MacK
Sherman Alexie's Indian Killer eschews the straight-up spectacle of a racially motivated serial killer mystery (with its potential for red herrings and dramatic climaxes) and instead savors the subtlety of innumerable racially conflicted characters who seem equally capable of murder--and leaves the whodunnit unanswered.

I have an undeniable fondness for Alexie (I'm already planning how to teach his The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian at the beginning of the next school year). One of t...more
John
Maybe it is partly because this was the first novel I read in six months, but I basically devoured this book and really enjoyed it all the way through. Great pace, great characters, good suspense, funny in parts. I really appreciated that Alexie made almost everyone at least a little sympathetic - even the characters that I really expected to dislike. Even the terrible people usually had a least one moment of humanity, so the reader could glimpse something good in them.
Also, I love books that zi...more
Irene
Aug 20, 2009 Irene rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like psychological thrillers
Shelves: fiction
I picked up Indian Killer at the library because I'm on a Sherman Alexie kick and this was the only book of his available. Being a psychological thriller about murder, it's not exactly the type of book I normally read. I was a bit apprehensive as I started reading, afraid I'd get nightmares or something, but the book quickly drew me in.

Indian Killer explores themes of identity and isolation across whites and Native Americans. There's the Indian man, adopted by white parents, who longs to be a "r...more
tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE
This starts off w/ a melodramatic bang worthy of Michael Crichton &/or Dean Koontz.. It's a thriller.. but it's a thriller w/ something that Crichton & Koontz will never have: a subtext of sensitizing the reader to American 'Indians'.. & there's no simple resolution. There're plenty of characters, the most sympathetic for me being probably the activist Marie Polatkin, the one who articulates the most accurately (IMO). The complex issue of relations between 'Whites' & "Indians' in...more
Peggy
I usually steer clear of this genre of novel. A serial killer roams Seattle. Sympathetic characters die or are threatened. Loving parents suffer. The book is well plotted and there's an element of real mystery to the suspense--could reality be driven by a vengeful spirit born out of centuries of wrongs done to Native Americans? Alexie does a great job depicting how white folks believing themselves to be experts in North American Indians come across to Native Americans. Some characters--sandwich...more
Eryn Paull
Sherman Alexie is a self-important, whiny alarmist, and a really bad writer.
This book is all about "Beware the Red Peril!" and has portrayed White/Indian race relations at their c. 1876 peak...
What an asshole.

By the way, I'm Native.
Walk-Minh Allen
This novel is a ghost story, a murder mystery, a psychological thriller, and a historical narrative reflecting the slow erosion of the native peoples of North America. It was uncomfortable to read, yet comforting to know that I’m not alone in my observations and my interpretations of the facts behind the systematic destruction, abuse, and dissolution of the first people over the past three to four centuries. And, to focus the issues and themes of cultural domination and destruction through the p...more
Book Concierge
3.5***

Alexie crafts a literary thriller that explores issues of racism, isolation, and mental illness.

A serial murderer known as “The Indian Killer” is terrorizing Seattle, hunting, killing and scalping white men. John Smith was taken from his Native American teen-age mother at birth and given to a white couple, who adopted him and raised him in a loving family. He has grown into a strong and handsome man, who lives quietly on the fringe of society. As the story progresses it becomes clear that...more
Mark Stevens
There’s an admirable premise at work in “Indian Killer,” in which Sherman Alexie uses the plot of a serial killer on the loose to run through just about every attitude and thought about racism in the United States—in particular racism aimed at American Indians.

Written in 1996, “Indian Killer” is hardly a taut murder mystery and it’s a bit loosely jointed, at least for my tastes, to be considered a literary classic.

The story’s central character is John Smith, an Indian who was adopted at birth b...more
Robin
I almost never read murder mysteries, but this one is written by Sherman Alexie,and I loved The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. There's very little endearing humor in this one, but I will give it a chance.

This book is harsh and disturbing, but readable. John, the main character, is revealed to be mentally unstable. We are to assume that this is the result of being separated from his specific Native heritage -- he knows he was born to an Indian mother, but the adoption records are se...more
Adrian Stumpp
The mixture of politics and art is always a dicey subject for me. I tend to be against it, since nearly all art composed in the name of a political cause is terrible. A recent exception to this is Sherman Alexie's Indian Killer, though I feel it is not nearly as good as it would have been had political voice not been the driving motivation behind it. Indeed, Indian Killer is chilling, and for all of the reasons Alexie does not want it to be. Alexie takes the leitmotif of the murder mystery for h...more
Emily
Jun 28, 2007 Emily rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sherman alexie fan, those interested in issues of identity
Shelves: booksofthepast
The Indian Killer is a departure from much of Alexie's other works, just as his poetry and short fiction are departures from one another. The book tells the story of a Native American serial killer is Seattle who scalps and murders white victims; of John Smith, a Native American who was adopted as a baby by affluent white parents; of Marie Polatkin, a fiery Native American activist and student; and of several white characters who are certain they understand the "Indian condition" while in genera...more
Rochelle
A cool ethnography of Seattle's Indian population-- Alexie's characters repeatedly confront challenges to their sense of "indian-ness." From Jack Wilson, the white writer who creates a community for himself by coopting indian culture, to John Smith, an Indian man adopted at birth by white parents, the characters struggle with their indian identity. I was left with a sense of the ambiguities that come along with "indian-ness." Alexie's characters try to discover what it means but often end up def...more
Artnoose Noose
Feb 05, 2008 Artnoose Noose rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: white people
This is the second Sherman Alexie book I have read. It's about a serial killer in Seattle whose victims are white males. It also follows several different characters, all of whom could be the serial killer. Meanwhile, racial tensions in Seattle mount and racially motivated violence spirals upward.

Alexie's two main questions seem to be: 1. What makes someone a "real" Indian? and 2. What to do with all these white people? Some of the Native folks in his books know their ancestral languages and so...more
Matt
Nov 28, 2010 Matt rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Matt by: Prof. Laura Furlan
More required reading from Prof. Laura Furlan's American Indian Lit class at Umass-Amherst. Sherman Alexie's "angry" book...apparently created as a response to critics who said Alexie was an angry Indian writer, to which Alexie said, no, THIS is an angry Indian book. Prof. Furlan has a signed copy of it, in which Alexie calls it his least favorite book. If you get this, get an edition with the jacket photo of Alexie in sexy-mode with his long hair and penetrating stare. Funny, ironic, a great su...more
Rachel
Mar 26, 2014 Rachel rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who are open to other points of view, and not too repelled by blood.
Recommended to Rachel by: family member
What I liked about this book:
1. It describes, in passionate detail, the complexities of Indian life in a Northwestern city, in interactions within the Indian community and between Indians, whites, and African Americans. Each character is different, and they are portrayed with considerable nuance. No ethnic group is all bad or all good, and no individual person is all bad or all good. Meanness and cruelty are given a background; they don't spring up out of nowhere, but are rooted in individual a...more
Ms. Jared
I really, really liked this one. I don't even know how to describe it. It's a mystery, allegory, social commentary...so many things in one.

It's the story of John Smith, a Native American (Indian in this novel) taken from his young mother at birth and given to a white couple to raise, and the psychic and emotional harm that caused him. And it's the story of a killer (suspected Indian) who is killing white men in Seattle and the racial hatred and violence that incites against the local Indians and...more
Christy
His other books weren't available at the library, so I went for this one. It was an interesting comment on racial tensions, but seemed overstated, was extremely grotesque and had one of the worst, most unsatisfying endings I've ever read. The characters were more like charicatures and, even though it was listed as a mystery, the mystery is never solved. I'll have to read one of his other books to redeem my opinion of him.
Deborah
I felt marginalized and insulted by this book at times. I think it's why I hold it in such high regard. It's a hard book, it raises questions. It's honest, brutal and unafraid.

Of course that's not enough to make a book good. The characters are vivid and Alexie succeeds at the task of storytelling.

I read this probably fifteen years ago. I still remember the way it made me feel all these years later.
Steven Salaita
This is Alexie's least critically successful novel, but I think it's underrated. Like much of his work, the social and political themes tend to be heavy-handed, but in Indian Killer they're heavy-handed with some great uses of humor. Professor Clarence is such a ridiculous imbecile of a character that you know he could only be based on a distinct real-life type.
Kathy Halsan
I could not put this book down, read it in less than 24 hours. It is a frightening thriller with many layers. I am still thinking my way through them. Alexie is a very talented writer and a Spokane Indian. This is probably the 4th book of his that I have read.
Monica Cox
I read this while visiting Seattle and therefore could see the landmarks described in the story. It made for an intense experience of it. This is a dramatic story, without his usual humor to take the edge off.
Isla McKetta
I flat out loved this book. If you want to know more about how it challenged the way I relate to race, check out my blog.
Ellen
discussing this hotblooded book kept Z and I awake for an all-night drive home a few years ago. I think we got in a fight about it, actually. I'm sure I won.
Celeste Fairchild
I've heard Alexi disavow this book publicly, so I don't feel bad giving it a negative review despite adoring the author. It's an angry book, and in an unhelpful way -- it doesn't have sympathy for some of its own characters.

There's also the fact that it's a mystery without a solution. I'm all for genre-bending, but this was one of the least satisfying endings I've ever read.

It seems like an immature book, something he wrote before he'd worked out a lot of what makes him a great author.

Read his...more
Alshia Delores Moyez
I'm a long-time fan of Sherman Alexie's. I really loved this book and I think you will, too.
Brian
I really appreciate Alexie's willingness to show characters with passion for their history, and write about characters that feel hurt by that history. The strong native characters in this novel show a depth of pain that the author works hard to get across to the reader as the murders of some white people in Seattle slowly uncover a more deeply seeded race war that is boiling under the surface of the town and culture as a whole. I appreciated getting to read characters who were unashamedly upset...more
Jesse Lehrer
Another fantastic Sherman Alexie book - can he do no wrong? CAN HE?

This was one of the most directly brutal books of his I have read. Due to the intense theme of racially motivated murder and violence Alexie successfully explores much of the hatred, prejudice, ignorance, anger, frustration, and more felt in America. He manages to explain and sympathize with the violent actions of his mentally ill protagonist but not justify them - something crucial to understanding race in America. The ending o...more
ElphabaNewlin
Set in the Pacific Northwest, INDIAN KILLER is the intertwining stories of multiple characters caught in an upwind of racial anger. A serial killer is targeting white men and scalping them, raising a fear and a fury within the white community and confusion among Native Americans. Racial tension mounts and mounts, as a talk radio host fans the flames with his show and deems the murderer the 'Indian Killer'. In the middle is John Smith, an Indian man adopted at birth by a white family, who is tryi...more
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Sherman J. Alexie, Jr., was born in October 1966. A Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, he grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, WA, about 50 miles northwest of Spokane, WA. Alexie has published 18 books to date.
Alexie is an award-winning and prolific author and occasional comedian. Much of his writing draws on his experiences as a modern Native American. Sherman's best known works in...more
More about Sherman Alexie...
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“...it's like this white-Indian thing has gotten out of control. And the thing with the blacks and the Mexicans. Everybody blaming everybody...I don't know what happened. I can't explain it all. Just look around at the world. Look at this country. Things just aren't like they used to be.'

'Son, things have never been like what you think they used to be.”
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“What’s so funny?’ asked Peone.
‘Catholic cops are funny,’ said Lester.
‘You were listening?’
‘Yeah.’
‘Yeah? Catholic Indians are funny.’
‘There’s lots of Catholic Indians.’
‘There’s lots of Catholic cops.”
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