Winter Counts: A Novel (Hardcover)
September 2020 Indie Next List
“Weiden’s book is a thriller with an important social and political message. Following a Lakota ‘enforcer’ who enacts extrajudicial punishment to fill the gaps in the legal system, Winter Counts is a twisty new addition to the growing Indigenous literature canon. While some of the action may fall into somewhat predictable territory, Weiden’s exploration of the injustices of reservation life are vital.”
— Ashley Baeckmann, Briars & Brambles Books, Windham, NY
ANTHONY AWARD WINNER FOR BEST FIRST NOVEL
THRILLER AWARD WINNER FOR BEST FIRST NOVEL
EDGAR AWARD NOMINEE FOR BEST FIRST NOVEL
“Winter Counts is a marvel. It’s a thriller with a beating heart and jagged teeth.” —Tommy Orange, author of There There
A Best Book of 2020: NPR * Publishers Weekly * Library Journal * CrimeReads * Goodreads * Sun Sentinel * SheReads * MysteryPeople
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, the kind that’s hard to forget. But when heroin makes its way into the reservation and finds Virgil’s nephew, his vigilantism suddenly becomes personal. He enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend and sets out to learn where the drugs are coming from, and how to make them stop.
They follow a lead to Denver and find that drug cartels are rapidly expanding and forming new and terrifying alliances. And back on the reservation, a new tribal council initiative raises uncomfortable questions about money and power. As Virgil starts to link the pieces together, he must face his own demons and reclaim his Native identity. He realizes that being a Native American in the twenty-first century comes at an incredible cost.
Winter Counts is a tour-de-force of crime fiction, a bracingly honest look at a long-ignored part of American life, and a twisting, turning story that’s as deeply rendered as it is thrilling.
Winner, Spur Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and Best First Novel * Winner, Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery Novel * Shortlisted, Best First Novel, Bouchercon Anthony Awards * Shortlisted, Best First Novel, International Thriller Writers * Shortlisted, Dashiell Hammett Prize for Literary Excellence in Crime Writing, International Association of Crime Writers * Longlisted, VCU Cabell First Novel Award * Shortlisted, Barry Award for Best First Novel * Shortlisted, Reading the West Award * Shortlisted, Colorado Book Award (Thriller)
David Heska Wanbli Weiden is an enrolled citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Nation and received his MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts. He's a MacDowell Colony Fellow, a Tin House Scholar, and the recipient of the PEN America Writing for Justice Fellowship. A lawyer and professor, he lives in Denver, Colorado, with his family.
— New York Times Book Review, Editor’s Choice
“Wholly satisfying, the novel builds to a violent, action-packed denouement, leaving space for a sequel….“Winter Counts” is a riveting yet soulful reimagining of hard-boiled crime fiction for an era in which systemic rot seems to be routinely uncovered.”
— San Francisco Chronicle
"Winter Counts is a once-in-a-generation thriller, an unforgettable debut set in and around South Dakota’s Rosebud Indian Reservation that brims with complex characters, believable conflicts and an urgent message about Native culture, inequities and criminal justice. . . . Propulsive.”
— ?Los Angeles Times
“Winter Counts is a compelling read and an insightful perspective on identity and power in America."
— USA Today
"You’ll love the tough-guy hero who refuses to back down to anyone."
“In his assured debut novel, David Heska Wanbli Weiden melds the gritty realism of Dashiell Hammett with the lyricism of Tommy Orange.”
— O, the Oprah Magazine
“Winter Counts is a marvel. It’s a thriller with a beating heart and jagged teeth. This book is a brilliant meditation on power and violence, and a testament to just how much a crime novel can achieve. Weiden is a powerful new voice. I couldn’t put it down.”
— Tommy Orange, author of There There
"Winter Counts is both a propulsive crime novel and a wonderfully informative book. David Heska Wanbli Weiden has written the first of what I hope is a series of books about life on Rosebud Reservation. Virgil Wounded Horse, his nephew Nathan, and Marie Short Bear are more than characters; they brim with intrigue and authentic life."
— Louise Erdrich, author of The Night Watchman
"Timely and smart, this is a powerful narrative about identity and heritage in a shifting world."
“Weiden’s debut is a gritty, complex, and dynamic thriller… It’s an absolutely riveting page-turner, compelling not only for the mystery at its core, but also for its piercing criticism of US (mis)treatment of Native populations.”