Commentary
3:13 am
Fri November 28, 2008

Uncommon Mystery - Season's Revenge: A Christmas Mystery

Murray, KY – Got that holiday itch but not quite sure how to scratch it? Commentator Michael Cohen suggests taking a stab at Henry Kisor's (Ky-zehr's) novel Season's Revenge: A Christmas Mystery. This uncommon mystery for the holidays features a Native American detective investigating an unusual murder in northern Michigan.

I picked up Henry Kisor's mystery called Season's Revenge because I had read a book by this author before. Henry Kisor, who was for many years the book review editor of the Chicago Sun Times, learned to fly in his middle age. Kisor had been reluctant to take flying lessons earlier because he is deaf; when he was in his fifties, though, he went flying with a friend who is a deaf pilot, and realized it was possible. His book, The Flight of the Gin Fizz: Midlife at 4,500 Feet, recounts Kisor's recreation of the first transcontinental flight early in the last century. His book struck a chord with me, since I didn't learn to fly until I was sixty.

I called this series "Uncommon Mysteries," and this one qualifies: the detective is a Lakota Sioux Indian with a Mexican name whose beat is in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and who investigates a murder where the weapon was a black bear. There are some other surprises I won't give away. This is the first of three mysteries Kisor has written about Steve Martinez, in the sheriff's department of Porcupine County. Martinez was adopted as a youngster and raised in a white household. He looks like an Indian but thinks like a white. He knows the Upper Peninsula is ancestral Sioux land and feels its appeal, but he's also too modern and rational to believe in this ancestral bond.

Kisor has admitted in interviews that this biracial or bicultural tug on his main character comes from his own sense of living in two different cultures: the hearing and the deaf.

Kisor peoples his fictional Porcupine County with believable folks, including the head of the local historical society, who provides romantic interest for Steve Martinez.

One aspect of the mystery is the curious historical fact that in the 1930s, Soviet Russia recruited hundreds of Finnish-American Upper Peninsula residents to emigrate to Karelia, a Finnish-speaking part of the Soviet Union. These people expected to get good jobs in Karelia and send money home, but a lot of them simply disappeared, and in Michigan their relatives who were left behind were unable to pay mortgages and lost their homes to land grabbers during the Depression.

The subtitle A Christmas Mystery, is a little misleading, since the crime, though solved at Christmastime, takes place months earlier, and the action of the book covers almost half a year. But it ends with snow and Christmas lights. Merry Christmas, mystery lovers.

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