Death Along the Spirit Road

First in the Spirit Road Mystery series!

Eighteen years ago, FBI agent Manny Tanno thought he was leaving the impoverished Pine Ridge Reservation for good. Now a case forces him to return, digging up memories of his proud Sioux ancestry—and some family he’d rather forget…


The body of local Native land developer Jason Red Cloud is found on the site of his new resort near Pine Ridge Village. A war club is lodged in his skull, and there are clues that suggest a ritual may have been performed at the crime scene. Agent Tanno’s boss orders him to return to the reservation, his former home, and solve the murder in two weeks-or he can kiss his job goodbye.

Manny arrives in Pine Ridge to find that some things haven’t changed since he left. His former rival, now in charge of the tribal police, is just as bitter as ever, and he has no intention of making Manny’s life easy. And the spirit of Red Cloud haunting Manny’s dreams is not much help either. Now Manny is on his own in hunting down a cold-blooded killer—and one misstep could send him down the Spirit Road next…

Based on 136 Reviews
D. Paulsrud
September 5, 2022

4.0 out of 5 stars A good mystery intertwined some some history

I really enjoyed the this book and look forward to reading the others in the “Spirit Road” series. Wendleboe does a good job of mingling in history throughout this mystery. Manny Tanno is an FBI agent who grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation, became a tribal police officer and than an FBI Investigator. He is assigned to solve the murder of Jason Red Cloud on the Reservation, a job Manny does not want because he does not want to return to the Reservation. There are some really good characters in this book – “Lumpy” Looks Twice and Willie With Horns to name a couple. As Manny struggles to solve the murder he finds that his main suspect is his brother Rueben, a former AIM member and ex-convict who is now a holy man. Manny begins to find out that maybe turning his back on his Lakota upbringing and traditions was not the best path and he learns a lot about himself during his investigation. There are some twists and turns that keep you guessing and the ending was not what I thought it would be, but it was a very good ending. I hope that a lot of these characters are included in the next books in this series. My only complaint is that he repeats certain “scenes” numerous times – the stale coffee in the pot, Manny reaching for the pack of cigarettes that he no longer has, etc… but those are minor things. Looking forward to the rest of this series!

chris heiny
October 28, 2019

5.0 out of 5 stars This is a great read to settle in with.

I just finished this book. I have been a reader of fiction for many many years. C.M. Wendelboe did an awesome job of character development, plot twists, and description, so much so, that I felt like I was there witnessing the unfolding story. I read many best selling authors and this is one of the top. He adds a greater depth than is usually found in this genre.. I am so glad to be introduced to this author that I will be ordering more.

October 29, 2018

4.0 out of 5 stars Held my interest to the end.

Just closed the book and really enjoyed the characters and their stories. The unexpected twists caught me by surprise and kept me reading. I will read this author again. Katiedid

Ryan Hershey
February 15, 2018

5.0 out of 5 stars A riveting story unlike most that you read.

Outstanding writing! I couldn’t put it down!

Nan Otero
September 20, 2017

5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars

I really enjoyed the story. I will read more of C. M. Wendelboe’s books

August 27, 2017

3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars


December 5, 2016

5.0 out of 5 stars Good read

Enjoyed Dead Along the Spirit Road. The story line was interesting and move quickly. I liked the characters and look forward to another adventure with them.

May 20, 2015

4.0 out of 5 stars The first novel in a new series featuring FBI agent …

The first novel in a new series featuring FBI agent Manny Tanno, a native american returning to a reservation of his youth. This excekkent book has overtones of Tony Hillerman and Craig Johnson and brings Lokota history and the Pine Ridge Reservation to life.

March 10, 2015

5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars

great book, came as you said and in a timely fashion, thank you

Anne Coughlin
July 15, 2014

3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars

It was okay but not as good as a Kellerman.

E. Foster
January 12, 2014

5.0 out of 5 stars Great Suspense in Lakota culture

C. M. Wendelboe writes an engaging tale of murder and suspense. He captures well Lakota culture – the traditions, the humor, the pain, and the spirituality. His main characters have depth and interesting interplay that are also a part of the main story and how it is resolved. These are three dimensional persons who have their personal challenges to deal with as they work toward solving a crime. While their humanity is evident, it is not a liability but rather an asset in developing empathy with them. If you have read any enjoyed the writing of the late Tony Hillerman and his series of mysteries with Jim Chee of the Navajo nation, you will find Wendelboe’s work a welcome cousin to that genre of literature.

October 16, 2013

5.0 out of 5 stars death along the spirit road

I grew up on a reservation and this is the most authentic enjoyable read I have been fortunate enough to read

E. McFarland
September 2, 2013

1.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly trite, very disappointed

I’m a big fan of Tony Hillerman and James D. Doss and I enjoy stories about Native American detectives operating in the Southwest. I was excited to try this book out, but was very disappointed. You have a middle-aged, balding, out of shape FBI agent who is suddenly surrounded by several gorgeous women all seeming extremely interested in him. The agent has a conflict of interest in the case, and goes about sharing information about the investigation with family members who may be involved and material witnesses. The hero is seriously assaulted 3 times in as many days, wakes up in the hospital, and goes right back at it. This apparently does not concern his boss or the gorgeous women who still cling to him, or cause him to rest a bit. Continuing to share confidential info with the gorgeous women who are material witnesses seems unprofessional, not to mention unlikely. I got 3/4 way through the book and couldn’t finish it, it was so bad. I won’t be buying any more books by this author.

Black Belt Granny
December 19, 2012

5.0 out of 5 stars Took me back to South Dakota and a wonderful time!

When I found this author I had just returned from a fantastic family reunion in Custer, South Dakota which is close to where most of the action in this mystery takes place. I could see everything in my mind’s eye. I especially enjoyed the realism of modern Rez life and the day to day realities of the poorest tribe in the US. The description of the Hotel Alex Johnson was great, because at the reunion, we’d just had our fourth grandchild, whose name is Alex Johnson, and had joked about that opulent historic building being named for him! I also felt Wendleboe’s characters and situations were well crafted and very realistic, with a touch of humor too. Good mysteries, I will buy more!

John Bowes
July 19, 2012

3.0 out of 5 stars Weak plot

The setting, the characters, the situations all ring true. But the basic plot, who done it and why, doesn’t carry the day. Perhaps the next effort will be better.

Ann Charles
November 19, 2011

5.0 out of 5 stars Full of twists and turns and grins!

The cover and title of this book grabbed me from the start. Then I started reading about FBI Agent Manny Tanno and I was hooked! I loved the details from the Pine Ridge setting that the author interweaved, and the Lakota history lesson interspersed throughout the story had me surfing the internet to learn more true-life details about events as I read. I had no idea who killed Jason Red Cloud until the very end, and I was surprised and pulled along further with each twist and turn. The grins came as poor Manny took a beating along the way as he struggled to solve this case. This is definitely a book I’m going to tell my family and friends to check out. I can’t wait to read C.M. Wendelboe’s next mystery!

July 22, 2011

3.0 out of 5 stars Fun Thriller

As a student of literature, this book does not rank as the most beautiful piece I have ever read in a literary sense. That said, it was a fun and quick read. I enjoyed it to the point that it took me less than 24 hours from start to finish to read the whole thing. I felt the main characters were well developed and you knew just enough about the minor characters to keep you interested, but you didn’t have to have their whole life story added to the mix. It might also help that I’m from the WY/SD area and so it was easy for me to picture the setting. I’m interested to see where the next book in the series goes and will gladly pick up a copy when it comes out. I have to agree with one review that said it was pretty easy to identify the “villain” early on, but I also agree with another that said this is the author’s first book and it can only get better. If you enjoy thriller novels, even ones that are predictable, then you will enjoy this book. I know I did; I have a weakness for thrillers.

June 2, 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars Loving Something Different

It is a breath of fresh air to read a mystery novel that doesn’t come out of the coastal states or cities. Pine Ridge is a harsh place where a culture fights between the old ways and the new ways. I studied many years in South Dakota and find the Lakota to be a fasinating but forgotten group. My hat is off to this new author for bringing new life to the mystery novel by giving us not only new characters but a new setting to enjoy. I can’t wait to read the next novel.

D. H. Williams
May 7, 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars Layers of History and Character

I like that Wendelboe’s Manny Tanno is a man of many parts. He has been a soldier, a cop in Chicago and an instructor at the FBI academy. Two years from retirement and comfortable in his Washington, D.C. environment with condo and gourmet restaurants, he is getting ready for his next round of classes when he gets sent to the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota to solve a murder. For Manny, history has a way of folding back on itself. His returning to the reservation where he grew up forces him to confront his own history in the form of a former romantic rival (now the local Sheriff), a brother once convicted of murder, (now studying spiritual ways), and more than one woman who sees him as a potential threat or opportunity. Another layer of history include memories of the American Indian Movement at its best and worst and even further back, haunting and bloody – the massacre at Wounded Knee. Manny’s investigation pulls on all these threads as he searches for murderer and motive. He partners up with a young tribal policeman and has to use all his experience – spiritual, technical and forensic to unravel the mystery while not getting led astray by his own personal and spiritual feelings about his old home, friends and enemies. Many of them have their own reasons for not wanting him to succeed, including his boss who might be happy if Manny never returned to Quantico. There are a lot of characters that contribute to the plot but they are well drawn so as to be distinctive. I particularly liked the variety in his women characters. They all have contradictions, which makes them intriguing, and raises this first effort above the crowd.

Melanie Shurtz
April 24, 2011

5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read

This is a great book. I have always been cautioned against reading books that people I know have written in case I don’t like it, it will cause awkwardness. This was not the case with this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It reminds me of Michael McGarrity or Craig Johnson but I like the style and language more. For me this was not a mystery that I had figured out too close to the beginning. I had some suspicions as I was reading but they weren’t confirmed until the end. There were also many clues I did not pick up on. I also appreciate the lack of vulgar language. Too many books today are having every other word one that is offensive. I am also pleased that it is in Kindle format already. I was disappointed when I found out that it was published because I am living overseas for a period of time and thought I would have to wait forever to read it. I was very pleased to be able to get it on my Kindle and read it. It was also great to read about places I am familiar with back home, so that when I read this book I felt like I was back there. I am going to recommend it to other family and friends back home. I look forward to more of Curt’s books.

April 5, 2011

5.0 out of 5 stars AWESOME READ!

Unexpected gem of a book. This is his first book? It rocks. Exciting and fast paced. It felt so real. The characters are 3-dimensional individuals. Felt like I was there. Manny has my heart. He has the depth of character to look at his faults and the courage to make some positive changes. Loved the story and will think of it often. More please.

March 30, 2011

5.0 out of 5 stars Great book

I thought this was a great book. The action started quickly and kept going until the end of the book. The book was a fast read with such an active plot that kept the reader guessing. The character Manny Tanno was comical and easy to relate to, like he was someone you knew. Great book, can’t wait to read the next one!

Shiela A. Rhodes
March 23, 2011

5.0 out of 5 stars WOW!! WHAT TALENT!!!

Loved the book and all of the characters, especially Manny Tanno. I can hardly wait for the second mystery to come out. Death Along The Spirit Road is truly a Best Seller! Wow! What Talent! It is an honor to know and have Curt Wendelboe as a friend. Always, Shiela Rhodes Doris Rogers–You have Never disappointed me Curt! Congratulations!!!!

5.0 out of 5 stars Just Like the Pine Ridge I Remember

Curt Wendelboe perfectly captures the Pin Ridge Reservation I remember from two visits–1959 and 1991. Nothing appeared to have changed between those visits, but I remember the AIM occupation and the ambush of the two FBI agents. Wendelboe paints such a vivid picture of the rez that even those who haven’t been there will be transported to what seems like an alien world. But the cast is anything but alien. We can identify with dogged agent Manny Tanno, his young eager protege, Willie With Horn, and a slew of modern Lakota, from lawmen and jailbirds to sirens and sophisticated, educated women. The plot is appropriately complex and we’re never sure which crimes are linked to which and I was constantly ruling out suspects and revising my ideas. The ending was particularly appropriate to a first novel in a series. But the author doesn’t write like a first-timer. In the best tradition of Tony Hillerman and Margaret Coel, Wendelboe has selected a reservation with ancient tradtions and modern aspirations and made us all feel at home there. I look forward to the next adventure.

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