Indigenous Stories: Blood Sisters by Vanessa Lillie

November is Native American Heritage month. As I finish my two book projects, I will be sharing Indigenous stories, as well as stories from Indigenous creators and storytellers.

Berkley Publishing sent along Blood Sisters [#ad] by Vanessa Lillie to be featured this month on this site. This book released on 10.31.2023. [NOTE: This post contains affiliate links. Please see the disclosure at the end of this post for more information.]

In this story, Syd Walker is an archeologist working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). She’s uncovered a skull of an Indian woman in Rhode Island. Finding that skull is just the beginning of a much bigger story.

Another skull is unearthed in her hometown in Oklahoma, but this one has her old badge inside of it, like a calling card asking her to come home.

Find me.

The BIA sends her home to Oklahoma, where she has to face her own demons. Haunted by a friend who was killed when they were kids, she suffers from ongoing psychological trauma from that incident. She killed their attacker, but it was too late to save her friend and her parents.

Going home isn’t what she expected. She’s not an archeologist on this return, she’s an investigator, but what she’s investigating is more than just the skull with her badge in it. There is so much more to what is calling her back home.

She arrives to find out her sister, Emma Lou, has gone missing. The land is poisoned and caving in, thanks to mining and energy companies polluting the land. People are being forced to take a pittance for their poisoned homes and nothing for the land. Drugs are becoming a way of life for their community so much that even Syd’s mother is making drug deliveries.

Bad people are taking advantage of this dying community. Whites are encroaching on the land and taking it as their own without reprimand. The government…don’t get me started. Underneath all of this are the Indigenous women who have gone missing. Their bones are littering the earth, completely undiscovered. But there are people looking for them, hoping they are still alive.

Lillie incorporates a lot of the issues plaguing Native Americans. The story takes place in 2008, but the problems are still relevant today (if not worse).

Lillie is a white-facing Cherokee. I didn’t start crying until I read the Author’s Note at the end of Blood Sisters. [#ad] Her note reminded me of why it is so difficult for me to write Book Project #1. I’ve cried so many times already, because to tell what is happening to Native Americans over these last hundred years all the way up until today has been so difficult, because it hurts me to know how much evil has been wrought against an entire race, all in an effort to exterminate them.

For this book, I will say that the ending surprised me. The twists kept coming and they didn’t stop. There’s redemption, surprise, intrigue, and just pure evil slamming up against you. She even threw a tornado in there (which actually did happen on May 10, 2008). There is more involved in this return to home than just investigating a skull with her badge in it. Ends up, everything is far worse than you can imagine.

This is a fantastic read for those who love thrillers and want to understand a little more about the terrors facing everyday Indigenous lives. If it’s not the white man trying to poison Native Americans, it’s people trying to murder them and steal the land out from underneath them, and people flooding their communities with drugs. This book goes into a very dark place, so tread lightly.

Thank you Berkley Pub and PRHAudio for sending Blood Sisters my way. [#ad] I think it frightened me more than I let on, because a lot of the topics Lillie touched upon are elements that appear in Book Project #1 (and that’s the horror book). It reminded me a bit of the psychological terror in the Hannibal Lecter books and the evil the FBI are chasing down (which is far worse than the cannibal). In this case, Syd had no idea what she was searching for when she arrived home, until it stumbled out of a cave. That was when everything changed.

[Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a review on this site. My review is not influenced by the publisher or the author in any way. This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work.]