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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
Return to Dead Horse Canyon: Grandfather Spirits by Marcha Fox and Pete Risingsun is a conspiracy suspense novel and the second book in the Dead Horse Canyon Saga, preceded by the series' critically acclaimed and award-winning first book, The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits. Two characters drive this saga, a widow named Sara Reynolds whose husband Bryan was murdered, and she very nearly along with him, after discovering corruption at a massive scale; and Charlie Littlewolf, Bryan's dearest friend, whose connection to the history of the land, his Cheyenne roots and the spirits that reside in both is far deeper than believed. The mission to avenge Bryan's murder and get the truth about the government's project out to the public is the driving force behind all of Sara's actions, no matter how dangerous they are. Charlie shares in this but is also confronted with a battle of conscience, memories, physical and emotional trauma, and the wise words of family, both now and in the past, to reconcile who he has become and who he is meant to be. “Until you have seen death, you cannot comprehend life. Experience provides the path to understanding which leads to wisdom."
I went into Return to Dead Horse Canyon not having read the first book and while it does read comfortably as a stand-alone, after just a couple of chapters I actually went back to read The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon before restarting book two. It was an excellent decision. The building of the Cheyenne history is critical to the story and had I not understood Sara's complete motivation and Charlie's fully fleshed-out roots, I'd have missed out on so much more than just a good read. Sara's plight is noble and even as she is met with roadblocks at every turn, she is not dissuaded. The peril she faces is amplified and pushed to maximum pacing when she pulls a Snowden-esque rabbit from her hard drive. However, it's Charlie that is most compelling to me. My gosh, the depth of ethnology packed into both novels is meticulously researched and beautifully detailed. There are moments of lessons hard learned and realized, a standout being a conversation at his grandfather's deathbed and another is when Charlie is finally able to harness a previously dormant and profoundly spiritual faculty. Co-authors Marcha Fox and Pete Risingsun are a dream team with this saga and I'm really looking forward to the third and final installment of their trilogy.