by Anne Hillerman
Anne Hillerman has seamlessly extended her late father’s 18-book Navajo Tribal Police series with Spider Woman’s Daughter.
This book builds on the events of Tony Hillerman’s 1988 novel, A Thief of Time.
At the opening of this book Tony Hillerman’s signature character Joe Leaphorn, the now retired lieutenant of the Navajo Police, is shot in the parking of a motel restaurant where he had joined his former colleagues for a weekly breakfast meeting.
Officer Bernadette Manuelito happens to witness the shooting as she takes a call from her husband, fellow police officer Jim Chee. The shooter gets out of a blue sedan backed in next to Leaphorn’s truck and points a gun at him, shooting him in the head.
Bernadette is able to get a good view of the car and a limited view of the hoodie-wearing shooter. She goes to Leaphorn’s side and begins speaking to him in Navajo, trying to get him to hang on for the ambulance. The question of whether Leaphorn will survive the serious brain injury he sustains adds to the suspense of the book.
The investigation quickly becomes complicated. The FBI arrive because the crime involved the shooting of a former tribal police officer. Bernadette is put on leave because she was a witness to the event and her observations shouldn’t be affected by what others say during the investigation. Chee is put in charge of the investigation.
Meanwhile, Leaphorn’s housemate and presumed lover Louisa Bourebonette is missing. Bernadette is asked to locate contact information to inform relatives of what happened. She discovers envelopes in Leaphorn’s truck that relate to an insurance and appraisal assignment that he had with the American Indian Resource Center (AIRC). Every lead they come up with ends at a brickwall or just adds to the questions investigators have about why Leaphorn would be a target and by whom.
Anne has pulled characters who were secondary in her father’s books — Bernadette and Chee — and made them primary characters in her continuation of the series. It isn’t necessary to have read A Thief of Time before reading this mystery. The same distinctive New Mexico setting and fascinating views of Navajo history, culture and arts that marked Tony Hillerman’s novels is present here in his daughter’s. As shocking as it is when a beloved character such as Joe Leaphorn is injured, possibly fatally, Anne has done an excellent job of making Chee and Bernandette strong, attractive characters whom you want to know more about.
This book has been followed by:
- Rock with Wings (2015), involving a missing woman, a mysterious car fire, solar energy, a movie company and an unexpected grave.
- Song of the Lion (2017), opens with a deadly explosion in the Shiprock High School parking lot and takes detectives to the Grand Canyon and a mediation to help determine the fate of a controversial development.
- Cave of Bones (2018), set in the rugged landscape of El Malpai near the Ramah Navajo reservation, involves a lost a teenager and the group leader who goes to search for her. Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn become involved as the situation grows more dangerous and complex.