Death at Rainy Mountain is set in 1866. While at a gathering to vote for a new chief, a tribal leader has been murdered, and a brilliant young warrior, The Cheyenne Robber, is accused of killing him. Families accuse other families, and Tay-Bodal is pulled into the drama. If he can't clear The Cheyenne Robber's name within 5 days, then the warrior will be banished and never heard from again.
There are a lot of great things about this book. First and foremost, Medawar offers a ton of information about life in the Kiowa nation around the mid-19th century. This was amazing because it's hard to find books that show the daily life and culture of various tribes. I especially liked learning about how egalitarian Kiowa culture was; women's votes were required for many important measures. I also liked seeing some key historical characters, like Satanta (White Bear), in their element. So many big personalities, booming laughter, and fantastic detail was present here. You can see that Medawar really wanted to bring to life history from the Kiowa side, filled with details and personalities and motivations that are often ignored in the way we learn American history today.
Unlike many mystery series I read, this one is much more light-hearted and fun. It reminded me of Lindsey Davis' Marcus Didius Falco series. Much as I love Malla Nunn's Detective Cooper's mysteries, they are pretty heavy. It's nice to see a historical mystery series that shows us the lighter side of life.
I really liked the aspects of the story I mentioned above. But there were several other things about this novel that bothered me. For example, the women are all pretty ridiculous. They either shriek and nag at everyone or they just suffer silently through what life has given them. It just feels very dated in the way women are presented (at least, I hope it's dated), and I was disappointed that a woman author would focus so much on giving us so many great men but so few women. There was literally a scene in which women had a catfight about who was the most deserving of a sought-after man. Ugh. And another in which Tay-Bodal wanted to show his woman that he was boss and so said and did some ridiculous things (though she is ridiculous, too, so I suppose they deserve each other).
Another thing that bothered me was the way at least two couples fell in love with each other at first sight. I don't like this sort of plot unless it's in a fairy tale, and it just felt lazy. Towards the end of the book, especially, I was just over the ridiculous portrayal of women and the bizarre and unnecessary complications of the romantic plots.
I didn't give this book a very high rating because of those issues. That said, I will probably read at least the next book in this series. I really did enjoy the way Medawar brought the Kiowa community to life, and I would love to learn more about it. Hopefully, the issues I encountered in this book were due to it being her first novel and they won't be as prevalent in the next book.