Mark Twain once said, “Every man is a moon and has a side which he turns toward nobody; you have to slip around behind if you want to see it.” (“The Refuge of Derelicts” 1905). This insight into human nature proves to be the driving force behind Sam Chitto’s pursuit of justice in The Horned Owl. Two Choctaw tribal council members pull Detective Sam Chitto into an unauthorized investigation to prove a teenage boy is innocent of murder and sexual mutilation. Using graphic novels the boy produced, prosecutors enlist the aid of a forensic psychiatrist to prove the boy committed a fantasy murder. Also suspect is the reason the boy gave for being seen near the body after the murder, i.e., the Choctaw deity Ishkitini, the Horned Owl, forewarned him in the night that someone would die violently.


One case investigation becomes two as Chitto realizes the murder occurred close to where his father was killed a decade before. Seizing the opportunity to solve his father’s murder, Chitto investigates both the new murder and the old. Chitto’s efforts to discover the moon side of various characters drives the action in both investigations.