The English Book Club
The English Book Club

A deep-dive into human identity—but not into detective work: “Indian Killer”

We discussed Sherman Alexie’s Indian Killer on July 13, 2023. Alexie’s 1996 “feel-good novel about interracial murder” (according to the author) intertwines the personal life-story of John Smith, born native and adopted by white parents (evidently oblivious to Pocahontas), with the murder-mystery of a serial killer dubbed the “indian killer” because of the scalping of his white victims.

PADERBORN2READ Rating for Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie

3.5 out of 5

Members’ Opinions

“One of my all-time favourite reads because I enjoy character-driven novels with weirdly poetic writing styles that endorse symbolism and push emotion. If you want your crime stories to have systematic investigations and clear results—this is probably not your novel. But if you are up for a deep-dive into human identity with all its struggles and shortcomings—I highly recommend putting Indian Killer on your reading list.”

Indian Killer is not so much a thriller than it is a multiple-PoV character study exploring themes of identity, isolation, racism and power. The characters in Indian Killer are neither good nor heroic, they are trapped in their own desires, fears, and misconceptions about the world. In short, they are likeably unlikeable.

In contrast, the actual plot fell flat for me. Indian Killer wants to be seen as a smart thriller, but barely shows any meaningful investigation or detective work. The book’s only red herring exposes itself right from its set-up.

Indian Killer works brilliantly as a slice-of-life story following unhinged, unhappy characters, but whenever the crime elements appear, the story disappoints.”

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Summer Term 2023

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