In Indian Killer Alexie uses a pulp-fiction form, the serial killer mystery, to frame the social issues facing American Indians. He populates the book with stock characters such as a grizzled ex-cop, a left-wing professor, a right-wing talk radio personality, drunken bums, thuggish teenagers and a schizophrenic main character who serves as the most obvious suspect in a mystery that never quite resolves itself.
John Smith, the troubled Indian adopted by whites appears at first to be the main character, but in some respects he is what Alfred Hitchcock called a McGuffin. The story is built around him, but he is not truly the main character and he is not the heart of the story. His struggle, while pointing out one aspect of the American Indian experience, is not the central point. John Smith’s experiences as an Indian adopted by whites have left him too addled and sad, from the first moment to the last, to serve as the story’s true focus.
The damage that had been ...