James Doss (who died in May, 2012) was an electrical engineer at the University of California's Los Alamos National Laboratory. That was his day job. In his spare time, his mind was centered on the Southern Ute reservation in Colorado where, in sixteen novels, he followed the lives of full-time rancher and part-time tribal investigator Charlie Moon, various relatives and Charlie's best friend, Scott Parris, sheriff of Granite Creek. Doss's posthumously released novel, The Old, Grey Wolf, came out in October, and reading these books in order can create an obsession with finding out the latest crisis on the rez. While the mysteries draw you in, Charlie and company can also provoke quite a lot of laughter.
Coffin Man, finds Charlie, who was formerly a uniformed cop on the Southern Ute police force, working for the tribal police on the reservation. He's trying to get up the nerve to propose to his lady-love, the local reference librarian, but he's oblivious to the fact that he's someone else's major crush. Getting in the way of a placid life are the facts that a pregnant sixteen-year-old is missing and, shortly thereafter, so is her mother. Then there is the murder of the cemetery caretaker in the cemetery!
Charlie's other concerns come from the fact that, in spite of his spare lifestyle, he is owner and operator of one of the largest cattle breeding ranches in the state. There are always minor mysteries involving cowboys and activities on the ranch.
Problems begin when Wanda Naranjo calls him with two serious problems: her sink is leaking and her daughter is missing. The sink gets fixed, but finding Wanda's daughter, Betty, is the stuff of which this novel is made.
Coffin Man also brings Charlie's Aunt Daisy Perika front and center. Aunt Daisy Ute shaman, tribal elder and manipulative curmudgeon (She makes being very old and very cranky look like a lot of fun.) has lost her mojo. She can still hear the dead but she can no longer see them. Daisy sets out to solve the mysteries of two missing people and restore her superior powers.
In each novel, Charlie Moon discovers that life on the rez means that, “Hard County makes hard people.” The more relevant phrase, however, might be, “Don't ever cross Daisy Perika!”
To learn more about this and other books, visit the Boulder City Library at 701 Adams Boulevard, 293-1281, www.bouldercitylibrary.org