The Peacekeeper by B.L. Blanchard is a thought-provoking story of murder, family trauma, and sacrifice set in an un-colonized North America. This crime novel creates an interesting mystery and puzzle for the reader to unravel with a flawless illustration of Anishinaabe culture in the modern world. Continue to get the rest of my take on this new release.
Against the backdrop of a never-colonized North America, a broken Ojibwe detective embarks on an emotional and twisting journey toward solving two murders, rediscovering family, and finding himself.
North America was never colonized. The United States and Canada don’t exist. The Great Lakes are surrounded by an independent Ojibwe nation. And in the village of Baawitigong, a Peacekeeper confronts his devastating past.
Twenty years ago to the day, Chibenashi’s mother was murdered and his father confessed. Ever since, caring for his still-traumatized younger sister has been Chibenashi’s privilege and penance. Now, on the same night of the Manoomin harvest, another woman is slain. His mother’s best friend. The leads to a seemingly impossible connection take Chibenashi far from the only world he’s ever known.
The major city of Shikaakwa is home to the victim’s cruelly estranged family—and to two people Chibenashi never wanted to see again: his imprisoned father and the lover who broke his heart. As the questions mount, the answers will change his and his sister’s lives forever. Because Chibenashi is about to discover that everything about those lives has been a lie.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Culture and Identity
Blanchard did such a great job of immersing the reader in Anishinaabe culture, without telling us about it. And what I mean by that is I was shown, not told about different aspects of Anishinaabe culture. Blanchard wrote it in such a way that we were naturally learning about this culture and how it evolved in the context of political and legal aspects of this version of North America. It also did not take away from the plot in any way, either.
Blanchard also puts into play the issues of identity in the context of family responsibilities. Throughout the book, our main character is torn between his responsibilities at work, at home with his traumatized sister, and his own responsibilities to himself and his emotional well-being. Additionally, The Peacekeeper briefly ties in the discussion of different cultural identities.
While the setting is an alternate history without European colonization in North America, it does not mean that this alternate history doesn’t take into account conflicts and shifts in power and territories between Indigenous American groups. There is one scene in particular where the reader can see these tensions. Our Ojibwe protagonist and another character from the T’wah T’wah group briefly mention how the Anishinaabe took over the T’wah T’wah’s land in the past. We can see how this has impacted the cultural identities of each character and the balance between cultural groups.
In terms of the plot, this was a fairly standard crime novel plot. There were the typical twists, turns, and issues that you would expect in a murder crime book. The actual crime-solving does take a while to start and move along. I did guess pretty early on who the culprit was, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I still did not know the how or motive of it all.
The pacing does pick up and stay pretty steady throughout the book, but I will say I was not entirely happy with the ending. I think that is a personal thing though. The final reveal did feel like a bit of a monologue of the criminal mastermind.
I think the culture and alternate history aspects of The Peacekeeper are what really carried it. If you like murder mystery crime novels this will be a good book for you, but do not look for anything that is novel (ha! pun…) for the genre. As a reader, Blanchard seamlessly immersed me into the culture of the Anishinaabe without inundating me or giving me a cultural lesson. Not that I’m opposed to that; I’m an anthropologist by training, what can I say?
It seems there may be a sequel coming next year and it is something I would definitely invest the time to read!