Social Awareness in Fiction

When I was growing up in the 60’s, there were significant events not taught in history classes. I had wondered how much of that was because it had just happened, such as the Holocaust, and because living in a poor school district we had old books. But it’s become increasingly apparent to me that selective teaching is the result of institutionalized bias.

How lucky we are that fiction authors have the medium to share these truths with us. I had never heard of Kristallnacht until I read Deborah Crombie’s Where Memories Lie. Nor had I heard of the 1921 Tulsa Massacre until I read Denis Lehane’s The Given Day. Both events I researched online and learned more. I’m sure there are many other examples.

When it was time for me to write my second Maeve Malloy, it had become apparent to me that Native Alaska women were disappearing. This was before the press paid attention to the phenomenon of missing and murdered indigenous women. What I saw was from time-to-time, there would be a TV news story about a body having been found and that the family had reported the woman was missing months earlier. So what did the authorities do about it? Precious little, it seemed, as I knew there had been no effort to publicize a search – if indeed there had been a search or I would have heard about it sooner.

So I wrote Hemlock Needle. It’s about a young Yup’ik woman, Esther Fancyboy, who left her village and came to Anchorage to obtain a university business degree. Then she obtained a job as a chief financial officer of a government-funded joint venture between her Native corporation and an engineering firm. Their goal was to devise a plumbing system for rural villages where the high water content of tundra makes it impossible to bury pipes so the villagers are forced to obtain their drinking water from the same river they dispose the sewage into. When Esther Fancyboy goes missing, family friend Maeve Malloy is called to assist in the search. Eventually her body is found in a snow drift.

Besides addressing the authorities’ apathy for missing Native women, I wanted to write about how valiantly the Native cultures strive to survive the destruction of subsistence lifestyles and the toll of urbanization. I’m proud of my story.

As it happens, I just found out the Kindle version is $2.99 on Amazon, if you’re interested. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did when writing it.Hemlock Needle: A Maeve Malloy Mystery – Kindle edition by Powell, Keenan. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle eBooks @


Keenan Powell


Keenan Powell is the Agatha, Lefty, and Silver Falchion nominated author of the Maeve Malloy Mystery series, Deadly Solution, Hemlock Needle, Hell and High Water.

While still in high school, she was one of the illustrators of the original Dungeons and Dragons. Art seemed an impractical pursuit – not an heiress, wouldn’t marry well, hated teaching – so she went to law school instead. When not writing or practicing law, Keenan can be found oil painting, studying the Irish language, or hanging out with her friends at mystery conventions.

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  1. Hemlock Needle is such a compelling read, Keenan. And heartbreaking, especially when I realized how real and current the story is.

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