Sara Sue Hoklotubbe, author of The American Café, is a Cherokee tribal citizen who grew up at Lake Eucha, see picture below, in northeast Oklahoma. Her mystery series stars Sadie Walela as an amateur sleuth. Hoklotubbe has published four novels in the series: Deception on All Counts, The American Café, Sinking Suspicions, and Betrayal at the Buffalo Ranch.
The stories all feature the northeast Oklahoma landscape and include Native American traditions and wisdom. Hoklotubbe includes an exploration of “myths, passions and fears of modern-day Cherokees,” according to Margaret Coel, author of the Wind River mystery series.
Carolyn Hart, fellow Oklahoma author, gives “five stars to The American Café, a riveting and lyrical novel. Sara Hoklotubbe draws on her Oklahoma and Cherokee heritage to create an absorbing tale with an appealing protagonist.”
Those words of praise are true about Hoklotubbe calling on her Oklahoma and Cherokee heritage. Sadie Walela is Cherokee and cares deeply about her heritage. In The American Café, Emma Singer returns to her hometown of Liberty, OK, after living in Carthage, MO, for years. She has returned to travel with her sister Goldie Ray who has sold her Liberty Café to Sadie. Sadie changes the name of the café to The American Café.
Unfortunately, shortly before Emma’s arrival, someone shot and killed Goldie as she sat on her back porch enjoying her morning coffee. Goldie’s death represents only one angle in The American Café mystery. Other avenues to pursue include Emma’s adopted daughter Rosalee who wants to know who her biological parents are and whether Pearl Mobley is both Goldie’s killer and Rosalee’s mother.
The story continues with more intrigue. Police chief George Stump, one of only two police officers in Liberty, appears to be working with a female bank employee to embezzle money from the bank. Newly hired second-in-command is officer Lance Smith who is methodical and careful in his policing.
With the many story lines, The American Café does not focus on one problem to be solved. Readers quickly learn of Goldie’s death by a mysterious shooter. Then Emma shows up with her prejudice against Native Americans and her insensitive comments to one and all about Native Americans. That part seems rather heavy-handed in pointing out prejudice. Police Chief Stump is corrupt and mean. Renegades are producing meth in the woods and possibly growing marijuana. Finally, Red, a Creek Indian, turns up in various situations, frequently helping Sadie.
The American Café contains some funny moments. Sadie does not know when she buys the café that Goldie has given out keys to a number of local residents, mostly men. They show up at the restaurant and start making coffee even before she is ready to open officially. Sadie learns that Goldie allowed the men to come earlier than she arrived; they would make coffee and drink it, leaving their money on the counter for Goldie when she arrived.
Sadie is supposed to be the amateur sleuth; in my mind, however, she does less to solve the crimes than others. She does act as a catalyst bringing people and ideas together so that the crimes are exposed and criminals caught.
Hoklotubbe maintains a Web site at this link: http://www.hoklotubbe.com/.