An addictive and groundbreaking debut thriller set on a Native American reservation
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 own 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.
About the Author
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’s Writing for Justice Fellowship. He lives in Denver, Colorado.
"Groundbreaking in its scope and gritty-pretty when it comes to language, this visceral page-turner will have you rooting for Virgil as he chases down the drug dealers causing so much pain on the Rosebud Reservation."
"A great mystery with excellent characters–everything you want in a crime novel."
— Book Riot
“I’ve been waiting most of my life for this book without realizing it. Winter Counts is a knowing, authentic, closely observed novel about modern-day Lakotas that rings absolutely true, warts and all. The sense of place is breathtaking and raw. It’s a hell of a debut.”
— C.J. Box, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of Long Range
One part gritty procedural, one part hard-edged literature, Winter Counts is more than a novel—it’s a testament in napalm you won’t be able to put down because it burns and holds fast.
— Craig Johnson, author of the Walt Longmire Mysteries
“The full-throttle, can’t-put-it-downness of this novel is a fact. Winter Counts is a hell of a gripping debut, perfectly plotted, and David Heska Wanbli Weiden is a major new voice in crime fiction, indigenous fiction, and American literature.”
— Benjamin Percy, author of Suicide Woods and Red Moon
"A stone-cold thriller with a soul and a politics—compelling and complex. A gripping crime story perfectly married to bigger questions about race and place and American violence."
— David Treuer, author of The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee
“Weiden announces himself as a formidable new voice in crime fiction. The images haunt, the action crackles, and Virgil Wounded Horse makes a lasting impression. Winter Counts is a heartfelt page-turner with compelling characters, keen cultural insight, and a climax unlike any I’ve read before.”
— Steph Cha, author of Your House Will Pay
“Winter Counts is a gripping, richly textured thriller and an urgent dispatch from Indian Country. Weiden writes with impressive authority and insight in this entirely original, enlightening, cliché-destroying novel.”
— James McLaughlin, Edgar Award-winning author of Bearskin
"Winter Counts drops the hammer on page one and never lets up, until you're not sure if that's the drums in the story or your heart in your chest pounding."
— Stephen Graham Jones, author of The Only Good Indians and Mongrels