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Indian Killer

3.76  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,681 Ratings  ·  468 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 420 pages
Published January 1st 1998 by Grand Central Publishing (first published January 1st 1996)
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The Shayne-Train
Jul 27, 2015 The Shayne-Train rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow, I love those little gems that you read "just 'cause" and turn out to be amazing.

Now, I'll say up front, I very rarely read paper books. Since my introduction to e-reading, that's all I want. Why? Because I can take a break from my book and Crush some Candy or snipe at a digital wildebeest or do a Sudoku, and then go right back to my book, ALL ON THE SAME MIRACULOUS GADGET! What a sci-fi world we live in, right? (Plus, if i'm eating chicken wings for lunch while reading, i can just tap the s
Jun 23, 2007 Rachel rated it really liked it
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
Eryn Paull
Jan 29, 2014 Eryn Paull rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Monica **can't read fast enough**
Dark read, but good. Review to come.
Walk-Minh Allen
Jun 16, 2013 Walk-Minh Allen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Stefanie Kern
Jan 20, 2016 Stefanie Kern rated it it was amazing
Sherman Alexie’s novels were the topic of my final paper at the university so yes, there might be some bias here but I deeply care about this angry, driven piece of literature and about Alexie’s literature in general.
The story revolves around some gruesome ritual murders with supposed Native American background, and paints a multilayered picture of the relationships between whites and Native Americans. Interestingly, the question of „whodunnit“ is gradually pushed into the background in favour
Jesse Lehrer
May 03, 2014 Jesse Lehrer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Aug 20, 2009 Irene rated it liked it  ·  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
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
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
Jan 03, 2013 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Ksenia Anske
Dec 19, 2015 Ksenia Anske rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A gritty tale on racism, purposeful, to smash your face, to wake you up. Hilarious and true, magical and bitter, smart, cunningly written; you read it in one gulp and wonder where the time went. This book has teeth. It's feral. It will munch you away.
Rolando Travieso
A mystical, powerful, and haunting novel. Alexie's writing is capable of making you feel, and I mean deeply feel, the anger that the characters feel towards each other. This book should be read at night when you are done socializing for the day because it really has the power to emotionally drain you. People can criticize it. They can call Alexie a racist. But the truth is that he is writing about feelings that are actually present within society, but we try to ignore it or shame anyone that she ...more
Liz Stabbert
As I was reading this book I was aware that I didn't really like it, but at the same time I was compelled to keep reading it. That's why I gave it two stars instead of only one (though frankly I feel that's a little generous), because there was just something that kept drawing me in. That all stopped, however, about two thirds of the way into the book, when it essentially became a contest between whites and Indians of who could do the most hideous thing to complete innocent strangers. At that po ...more
Ms. Jared
Apr 23, 2014 Ms. Jared rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really, really liked this one. I don't even know how to describe it. It's a mystery, allegory, social 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
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
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
Sep 30, 2013 Robin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 28, 2007 Emily rated it really liked it
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
Aug 24, 2008 Rochelle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-western
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 liked it  ·  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
Victoria Wiedrich
The best Sherman Alexie book I've read thus far. There are many types of prejudices and this book takes a long, hard look at them. This may be a tough read for the faint of heart; however, anyone who reads this author knows that his brutal honesty and imagery are crucial to his storytelling.
Mark Owens
Sep 22, 2014 Mark Owens rated it it was amazing
No- brainer five stars for me. Alexie is a brilliant writer. I loved Reservation Blues but this one had so many more elements to it. First rate mystery independent of the Native American angle. Sinister,gripping, and brutal. Indian Killer presented different perspectives on social and race issues in a cohesive and moving fashion. This story is dark, as dark as it gets, and it paints racial hatred in such a way as to make any reader with a heart cringe at the hatred and those who fan its flames. ...more
Apr 16, 2016 Fabienne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great read! Shows very well how racial stereotypes, anger & tensions lead to conflict. Nice characters. (Although they remain a bit flat at times). A quick, interesting page-turner, very intelligent & political.
Nov 28, 2010 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  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
Sep 04, 2015 Wittch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be the answer to the magical realism of those wonderful Central/South America writers. What an intense riveting book. I could not put it down and would put it on everybody's reading list.
Courtney Jimmie
May 09, 2016 Courtney Jimmie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read2015
I read this nearly a year ago and I don't remember being blown away by the story, but an element of it gave me pause. I was intrigued by how every character was struggling with their "Indian-ness;" how they perceive themselves and how they're perceived by others. From the homeless who felt they couldn't go back home to the reservation, the full-blooded native woman who felt she didn't belong on the rez because her tribal school classmates turned on her for being smart, the full-blooded native ma ...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 about Sherman Alexie...

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“'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.”
“Listen" said Mather. "I understand what you're going through, I really do. An Indian woman in college. I understand. I'm a Marxist."
Really," said Marie. "I'm a Libra.”
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