When Lissa Yellow Bird was released from prison in 2009, she found her home, the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota, transformed by the Bakken oil boom. Three years later, when Lissa learned that a young white oil worker, Kristopher “KC” Clarke, had disappeared from his reservation worksite, she became obsessed with his case and went to great lengths to find him.
It’s Yellow Bird’s incremental fight that makes the book addictive, full of twists and turns and surprising choices ... The question of why she became interested, stayed involved and built her life around this murder underlies the entire book. In the end I don’t think Murdoch has found an answer. In some ways, Yellow Bird is a mirror of Murdoch herself ... Murdoch reports the hell out of it, digging up text messages and conversations and business dealings and shifts in tribal power. She also gets deep into personal relationships and reveals their richness from all sides. It’s a remarkable accomplishment. The book is also a little messy—sometimes the details overwhelm when what’s really needed is a better overview. But I like its sprawl, which allows this true-crime story—and it is a great true-crime story—to reach for broader horizons.
... remarkable ... Murdoch resists easy portraiture and blind compassion...Murdoch doesn’t sell out Yellow Bird or the people of Fort Berthold, and she doesn’t gloss over their problems either. Rather, she finds a way to balance her journalistic curiosity with respect for these complicated people ... I couldn’t help noticing the irony of tuning in to the fate of a non-Native man, killed by non-Native people on an Indian reservation. Maybe irony isn’t the best word. Political and social sadness might be better ... her tight focus on Yellow Bird and her quest precludes a full exploration of missing and murdered Indigenous women. I wish it hadn’t. Likewise, I thought Clarke’s murder and Yellow Bird’s determination to find an answer would be a way to bring Fort Berthold and the Great Plains into greater relief; that the journey toward the truth of Clarke’s disappearance would become a journey toward the truth of how reservations and power and money work in our modern world. But — and I am an Ojibwe from Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota who has written a book on reservation life — I was left largely as unenlightened about Fort Berthold at the end as I was at the beginning ... That said, Yellow Bird isn’t an 'everything' book. Nor should it be. Its strength derives not from vast panoramas but from an intimate gaze. By looking at Clarke’s murder through Yellow Bird’s eyes, we get to see the forces that shape and ultimately unite their lives ... Yellow Bird’s fanatical but dignified search brought closure to Clarke’s family and change to Fort Berthold. In her telling of the story, Murdoch brings the same fanaticism and dignity to the search for and meaning of modern Native America.
... a story that expertly blends true crime, environmental drama, and family saga. For a first nonfiction work, Murdoch has outdone herself by telling the story in a beautifully narrative way, allowing readers to watch the scene unfold as Lissa Yellow Bird investigates the disappearance of Kristopher 'KC' Clarke from his work site on Lissa’s tribal reservation. Murdoch’s own experiences lends perspective; her account offers no easy answers and causes readers to face the moral questions involved: resource mining on Native land, hardships caused by the signing and breaking of treaties, and the difficulties faced by everyone during an economic recession. Fans of Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark will appreciate the accessible style, precise details, fast pace, and lyrical prose ... Required reading for all fans of true crime, particularly those interested in the intersections of poverty and environmental justice, along with Native studies.