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Winter Counts

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  12,629 ratings  ·  2,114 reviews
A groundbreaking thriller about a vigilante on a Native American reservation who embarks on a dangerous mission to track down the source of a heroin influx. 

Virgil Wounded Horse is the local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.  When justice is denied by the American legal system or the tribal council, Virgil is hired to deliver his own punishment, t
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 25th 2020 by Ecco
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Wendy Cosin The Lakota calendar system included images showing the most significant events from the year. People would draw their own symbols. The novel is made u…moreThe Lakota calendar system included images showing the most significant events from the year. People would draw their own symbols. The novel is made up of such significant events.(less)
Chelsea Virgil is a hired "thug" at first he wasn't sure if he wanted the job but after the events of Nathan's mishap he decides he needs to get involved. …moreVirgil is a hired "thug" at first he wasn't sure if he wanted the job but after the events of Nathan's mishap he decides he needs to get involved. (less)

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Average rating 3.87  · 
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 ·  12,629 ratings  ·  2,114 reviews

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Chelsea Humphrey
"Winter counts were the calendar system used by the Lakota, but they weren't like modern ones. I'd loved the little pictures in the calendars, each image showing the most significant event from the past year.

If you are a lover of slow burning, character driven crime fiction, please halt your scroll and immediately add Winter Counts to your 2020 TBR. I know that time and money are limited resources for many readers these days, but I highly recommend planning ahead and making this book a priority
➽ content and trigger warnings:
mention of rape, assault, death of a toddler *page 124* police injustice, police brutality, drugs, drug abuse, desolate living conditions, suicidal ideology, alcoholism, murder, criminal activities (thank you so much Michelle!)

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This was our November 2020 pick for the Dragons and Tea Book Club! 🐉☕
Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin
4.5 Stars ⭐️

I love Native American books and I loved this mystery/thriller written by this author. I look forward to reading more of his work!!

I’m going to give away my hardback and purchase it in kindle.

Happy Reading!

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
3.5 stars
I enjoyed this one! Here are some notes I jotted down while reading:

-There is some great social commentary in this book about what it’s like to live on an Indian reservation, and I feel like I learned so much, especially with the authors note at the end. It’s tragic that most times federal authorities refuse to prosecute murders, assaults, and sex crimes: over 35% of crimes are declined and over a quarter of those cases are sexual assaults against women and children
-Very eye opening,
Aug 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: from-publisher, 2020
A fast-paced crime thriller that has just as much grit as it does heart, Winter Counts had me flying through the pages up to the end. I’m very impressed by this debut by David Heska Wanbli Weiden.

Left with little recourse against injustice on their reservation, Virgil Wounded Horse is the man you call when seeking retribution. Wounded Horse is a Lakota man living on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota along with his teenaged nephew, Nathan. Virgil is a hired enforcer, a vigilante judg
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lakota winter counts are documents of recorded history. "Usually drawn on buffalo skins or deer hide, Lakota winter counts are comprised of pictographs organized in spiral or horizontal rows...Waniyeti is the Lakota word for year, which is measured from first snow to first snow".
-Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center

"By federal law, tribal police couldn't prosecute any federal crimes that happened on the rez. A murder on the rez in 1880's...the killer was banished, but not jailed...upset by the
Mar 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021, from-library
Sadness is like an abandoned car left out in a field for good — it changes a little over the years, but doesn’t ever disappear. You may forget about it for a while, but it’s still there, rusting away, until you notice it again.
On one level, Winter Counts will feel very familiar. A local tough guy who operates outside the law is tasked with solving a crime, but soon realizes that the problem goes much deeper than he was first led to believe. There’s an ex-girlfriend and an innocent kid, and the s
Wow, wow, wow. This was an excellent debut!

From reading the summary of this book and previously reading There There, I thought I had an idea of what would be in these pages. I was wrong. No matter who the writer or population discussed is, the very bleak, but important issues in these pages of drug abuse and economic poverty was something that I previously would have moved away from reading about. As I grow and mature as a reader, I am trying really hard to diversify what I read and and also su
Anne Bogel
Oct 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this new crime novel set on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, home to the Sicangu Lakota nation. (Weiden is a citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Nation and received his MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts.)

Virgil Wounded Horse is a Native American vigilante for hire: when people can't get justice through the reservation's official channels they turn to him to enact their own. This happens with depressing regularity because of the 1885 Major Crimes Act: certain
Oct 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
Five big stars!
This is a great character driven story of a Native American fixer’s search to find the source of heroin being brought onto his reservation. Virgil Wounded Horse lives on the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota. He’s a recovered alcoholic, a half breed and more outcast than accepted.
Due to the way the laws work, it’s sometimes hard to find justice on the rez. Virgil is a means to get that justice. When his nephew almost overdosed on heroin, Virgil agreed to accept an assignment t
mina reads™️
Dec 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I never expected that I would love a thriller so much 🤧
Gonna list the trigger warnings now ⬇️⬇️⬇️

Trigger warnings: mentions of rape and pedophilia(most heavily in the first chapter), assault, murder, drug abuse, child death
"Become the spark that lights the fire and then burn, burn with intensity and purpose because only as ashes shall you rise." (Bernice Angoh Lakota)

Winter Counts encompasses those embers that smolder from within. The flame reflects the initiative of the individual as well as the depth and the forcefulness exhibited by the very people themselves. Dare we even imagine the generations upon generations of the Sicangu Lakota who came before these times. Dare we to even know the inner thoughts and the
Mar 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don’t read much crime fiction (hint: it’s closer to none.) There’s no particular reason other than it just has never been a drama I turn to and I think I know why: there is not a lot of Indigenous authored crime fiction. I’ve discovered I will read ANY genre as long as it’s written by a Native author.

The Goodreads Top 50 Native American mystery novels list only contains one Indigenous author. Tony Hillerman is a popular crime fiction novelist whose novels often pop up on such lists, he has bee
Chelsea (chelseadolling reads)
Jan 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2021
TW: rape, violence, child abuse, pedophilia, drug use, addiction, overdose, racism, racial slurs
Sep 26, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery, new
The novel has three strengths imo—and they are formidable, but not enough to redeem the story as a whole. The first is in the world it describes, the day to day life and details about a specific Lakota reservation in South Dakota. This world is rendered with clear love and understanding. The second strength is the pains it takes in describing the religious practices and spiritual beliefs of this specific native nation. There is so much love and honor here and these details make the story sing. A ...more
Trigger Warnings: Assault, rape, drug use, drug overdose, death of a child, alcoholism, violence

Whewww listen! This book was absolutely crazy in the last 10-15%. I actually didn't realize it was a thriller until I read a few reviews. Winter Counts is a fast-paced thriller that centers around the main character Virgil Wounded Horse. In the beginning of the novel (maybe the first 2 to 3 pages) readers learn that he serves as a vigilante on the reservation. What was so interesting about even the in
Sep 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
“Winter Counts” by author David Heska Wanbli Weiden is a special thriller suspense novel because it takes place on South Dakota’s Rosebud Indian Reservation and it involves the Lakota Sioux Indian culture. The mystery/thriller is almost secondary; the beauty and novelty of the story is the cultural information gained.

David Heska Wanbili Weiden is a registered member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation. In addition, has a JD degree including a legal career. His background provides authenticity to his th
3 ½ stars

“Winter counts. This was the winter of my sorrow, one I had tried to elude but which had come for me with a terrible cruelty.”

Winter Counts is a compelling debut novel. Although this book uses elements and tropes of the thriller genre, the narrative isn’t solely focused on its 'loner vigilante vs. bad guys' storyline (which is perhaps the novel’s weakest aspect). In fact, throughout the course of his narrative, David Heska Wanbli Weiden sheds light on America's past and present syst
Jessica Woodbury
I often start my reviews of crime novels by identifying the type of protagonist. It tells you a lot about the book, and a lot of books use the same handful of tired tropes. WINTER COUNTS has the "tough guy" protagonist, usually enough to send me running in the opposite direction. But the thing about these character types isn't that they're inherently bad, it's that they're just so poorly and lazily executed much of the time. This isn't one of those times. Usually the tough guy is past rock botto ...more
Diana | Book of Secrets
Jan 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
WINTER COUNTS is an impressive debut novel from David Heska Wanbli Weiden. It's a gritty and often dark crime thriller that follows Virgil Wounded Horse, a hired vigilante living on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. When tribal police and the feds fail to deliver justice, Virgil takes the law into his own hands. He finds himself personally involved in a dangerous case when his nephew falls prey to hard drugs being pushed on the reservation.

This was a compelling slow-burn mystery, as well
Dave Schaafsma
Winter Count—a series of pictographs drawn on buffalo hide, cloth, or paper that was used to help remember community history among some tribes of the Northern Great Plains.

Virgil Wounded Horse is the local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Early on he demonstrates how this works as he beats the living crap out of a guy most people knew assaulted a little girl. Where was the Tribal Police?

"By federal law, tribal police couldn't prosecute any federal crimes that happened
Rachel (TheShadesofOrange)
4.0 Stars
This was such a deep and powerful character driven thriller. Personally, I loved reading all the details related to life on the reservation and the wider experience of being an indigenous person in the United States. As an ownvoices narrative, I found the insights in the culture were very honest and balanced.

For a thriller, there was very little action until the end. Yet, the action that was in the story was surprisingly violent. The actual drug plot was fairly predictable and I did see
Natasha Niezgoda


Um hello! If you have this sitting on your TBR shelf, read 👏🏽 it 👏🏽 now 👏🏽

Okay so you have Virgil who’s had a really shitty hand in life - a lot of loss and a lot of demons. But he’s doing his best to set a good example for his nephew, Nathan. But something sinister is going on within the reservation and Nathan gets wrapped up in it. And it’s up to Virgil to save his nephew’s fate.

Friends - this is one of the best multi-dimensional mystery stories I have ever read! I’m talkin
Frank Phillips
Feb 09, 2021 rated it liked it
Solid and relatively fast-paced Native American action/thriller, however it just wasn't my genre and I was just 'meh' about it throughout. Gangs and drug-related crimes don't get me as excited as my other thrillers do, so I wasn't as engaged as I hoped I would be. That's not to say there weren't great things about this read. I have NA Cherokee tribe blood down my family line, and I appreciated some insight into some aspects of the culture, and have noticed more and more NA authors being publishe ...more
Oct 12, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: thriller, mystery
Perfectly fine. Loved the setting, as my husband’s great-grandmother grew up on the Rosebud Reservation, and I very much enjoyed getting a peak into what Rez life is like in the present. The elements of the story that most involved the Rez felt unique and original. But the characters fell flat for me, and the mystery/thriller elements felt stale and a bit unoriginal. I was way more interested in the fight to improve nutrition on the Rez than I was in the central crime plot. The writing was good ...more
Nadine Jones
Nov 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: crime, r2020-in-2020
When Sybil died, everyone said that the grief would get better over time, but that hadn’t happened. What I’d discovered was that sadness is like an abandoned car left out in a field for good—it changes a little over the years, but doesn’t ever disappear. You may forget about it for a while, but it’s still there, rusting away, until you notice it again.

A Lakota vigilante who drives around in an old Ford Pinto? Yes, please!  There’s a lot for me to like here, but it’s also clearly a debut eff
Jordan (Jordy’s Book Club)
Sep 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
QUICK TAKE: This story centered around an Indigenous "fixer" on the Rosebud Reservation was so freakin' good. Compelling mystery, well-written characters, insight into Indigenous culture and struggles Indigenous people face every day in America. It was a book that was entertaining but also opened my eyes to issues I wasn't aware of and led me to doing more research on some of the topics explored. Couldn't recommend this one enough. ...more
Kayla Lehn
Nothing bad here, but nothing life changing either. We got a story with no real beginning, no middle, just an end.

It felt less like the characters and story were evolving and more like things just happening, for no rhyme or reason, in order.
This is a very good mystery crime thriller. It's unique to me as it gives the sense of life in Indian Reservation. Great read! ...more
Dave Wickenden
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a new author for me, and I was pulled in right away. Virgil Wounded Horse helps those who are unable to find justice when the police refuse to help them. He hires himself out as a vigilante who beats rapists, thieves and other lowlife on the Rosebud Reservation. When he is approached by a Council member to deal out some justice to a former bully who is selling heroin on the reserve, he wants nothing to do with it, until his nephew overdoses and almost dies of bad dope. Now he’s looking f ...more
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David Heska Wanbli Weiden, an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota nation, is the author of the novel Winter Counts (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2020), a New York Times Editors' Choice and Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2020. He also wrote the children’s book Spotted Tail (Reycraft, 2019), winner of the 2020 Spur Award from the Western Writers of America and finalist for the Colorado Book Awards. His wor ...more

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“What I’d discovered was that sadness is like an abandoned car left out in a field for good—it changes a little over the years, but doesn’t ever disappear. You may forget about it for a while, but it’s still there, rusting away, until you notice it again.” 12 likes
“There is no word for goodbye in Lakota. That's what my mother used to tell me. Sure, there are words like toksa, which meant "later," that were used by people as a modern substitute. She'd told me later that the Lakota people didn't use a term for farewell because of the idea that we are forever connected. To say goodbye would mean the circle was broken.” 4 likes
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