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All booksThrillerWinter Counts
Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

Winter Counts

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, David Heska Wanbli Weiden, on your first book!

by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

Quick take

Follow a twisty path of vigilantism in this gritty crime novel set on a Native American reservation.

Good to know

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    Fast read

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    Family drama

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  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Murder


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Why I love it

S.A. Cosby
Author, Razorblade Tears

You know that moment after cracking open a new book when you realize the book you’re reading is special? That there is something utterly unique and transformative about the story? It can be the first line, or a paragraph in the middle, or maybe even the very last line. Well in Winter Counts, there were countless of these moments—moments when I realized I was in the hands of a master storyteller, and that I was in for an experience unlike any I’d had before.

The novel follows Virgil Wounded Horse, a vigilante-for-hire who takes justice into his own hands when his nephew Nathan is framed for drug possession. But when his investigation takes him beyond the reservation’s borders, he realizes his mission is more complex than he could’ve imagined. Aided by an unlikely partner—his ex-girlfriend—and driven by a desire to save his own family, Virgil embarks on a dangerous journey to stop the influx of drugs.

Winter Counts is raw and uncompromising. It’s also rooted in current events, complete with a note from the author, an enrolled member of the Sicangu Lakota nation, on how he approached the writing of this book. Ultimately, Winter Counts is a hopeful story. It’s a hard-earned hope, but that is why it’s precious, and that is why I love this book.

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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 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.

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Get an early look from the first pages of Winter Counts.

Member thoughts

All (9673)
All (9673)
Love (3611)
Like (5185)
Dislike (877)
9873 ratings
  • 37% Love
  • 53% Like
  • 9% Dislike
  • tustin, CA

    Friends - this is one of the best multi-dimensional mystery stories I have ever read. I’m talking beautiful imagery combined with a gritty vengeance and deep-rooted introspection. HELLO, LAYERS! ????????

  • Norman, OK

    A look into life that few get to see from the side of the “rez.” This book is a solid small town crime novel with some important cultural touchstones. This is a tv series I would totally watch—make it

  • Austin, TX

    I was immediately drawn in by the premise of ‘Winter Counts’ and the chance to read a book from the underrepresented Native American perspective, especially in fiction and thrillers. An amazing debut!

  • Livonia, MI

    This was a great debut! Great mystery crime novel. Suspense, action and more! Virgil Wounded Horse, local vigilante on the “rez”, struggles with his identity as he takes on heroine in his community.

  • Prescott Valley , AZ

    I enjoyed this book. Native American traditions have always been of interest to me. I’m glad the author incorporated some of it in this book. The ending could have been better but overall a good book.

  • Montgomery, AL

    The book got off to a good start; but around chapter 10, the action slowed down. I almost put the book down & called it quits. I’m glad I kept reading as the action picked up & the end was surprising.

  • Marysville , WA

    This is one of the best reads this year for me. The books follows the current plights of Native Americans and the struggles they face in today’s world. I love reading stories about indigenous people.

  • New River, AZ

    This book reminded me of the Longmire series. I really enjoyed reading this and learning about the reservation and how the people lived. It was sad and beautiful. Looking forward to the next book ❤️

  • Osceola , IN

    I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this book, but once I started I could not put it down. The vigilante noir feeling of it kept me wrapped up in the story, and I could not wait to see how it ended!

  • Greenville, SC

    Wow. This was intense. I wasn’t aware of how deep racism toward Native Americans ran. There were multiple times that I teared up in anger at their calm acceptance of things that are inherently wrong.

  • McMinnville, TN

    One of the best books I’ve read this year! Faced paced, intense, well developed characters, emotional, full of important contemporary issues such as drug addiction, bullying, and ethnic disparities.

  • Cynthiana, KY

    I really enjoyed this book. It is a fast paced story. The characters were well developed and realistic. I enjoyed learning about life on the reservation, the different ceremonial customs of the tribe

  • Tucson, AZ

    Amazing. Not a murder mystery like I thought, but still amazing. This book is all about self reflection and bettering yourself. The family dynamic had me in tears because of how much love was present.

  • Union Grove, WI

    This was a book I could not put down, the lives of Indians on the reservation and their food supply, hospital, and justice system was eye opening. The story of Virgil who must enforce justice is good.

  • Cohoes, NY

    I loved this book. The characters and the story kept me guessing and it was very well written. I love books where I have the opportunity to learn something new and this book provided that in many ways

  • Cando, ND

    I loved this book so much! It was such a solid insight to some very real problems that are happening on reservations all over the states. Virgil was such a character that you couldn’t help but love!

  • Boise, ID

    I really loved the normalization of the Lakotah reservation. The book didnt attempt to prove anything or teach white folk everything we need to know about the native people group, but still I learned.

  • Ignacio, CO

    A thriller that weaves historical trauma, contemporary issues and the drug trade in Indian Country. An important and accessible read that highlights real issues inflicting indigenous people in the US.

  • Falls Church, VA

    I lived on a Sioux Indian reservation out of college so i have a deep appreciation for the Lakota traditions the author wove into the book and how the challenges Indians face were woven into the story

  • Littleton , CO

    I really enjoyed this book. It was quick paced, interesting read. I was really glad to learn more details about the history of Native Americans. I know that growing up we are all given a glossed over

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