Rave Reviews by Jean E. Eustance March 2020
Die-hard fans of Tony Hillerman will have read all 18 of his murder mysteries set in the American Southwest, in the Four Corners region. Everyone knows his Navajo Nation detectives: the Legendary Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn and the younger, more brash Jim Chee. Partway through the series, Tony Hillerman brought in fellow police officer Bernadette Manuelito. She conveniently fell in love with Jim Chee, although he was too thick to realize it, until she nearly was killed in a later book. After that, Chee appreciated her and they got married.
Tony Hillerman passed away in 2008. His daughter, Anne Hillerman, was prevailed upon to continue the series. She’s done a sparkling job of it. On our shelves, upstairs in Adult Services, the Pine Bush Public Library has Spider Woman’s Daughter and Rock With Wings.
Tony Hillerman’s first international best seller was A Thief of Time. Anne Hillerman started her series with a nod back to this book, bringing in several of the characters from this old case. It worked. Spider Woman’s Daughter became a New York Times Bestseller.
The problem with a continuation of a series is how to get the young folks out from under the wing of an established detective. Anne Hillerman solves this problem on page three by having a mysterious villain shoot Lieutenant Leaphorn. After that, Bernie and Chee have to solve the case. Anne Hillerman has them go off on different tangents, and she tells the story from their alternating viewpoints. Leaphorn lives, but has brain damage (which he recovers from, somewhat, over the course of the various books. The series goes beyond these first two.)
Usually the woman in a book is the damsel in distress. In this book, it’s Jim Chee who is tied and gagged, and Bernie who is tied with bungee cords but not gagged. And it is she who does the serious daring-do and saves them both. After the rescue, another police officer says, “Everyone’s looking for (that person.) You can’t shoot Joe Leaphorn and try to fry a couple more cops, without getting some attention.”
On to book number two, Rock With Wings. This is even more fascinating with Bernie following a man who has a huge dog, and who has a strange interest in getting rid of an old man who lives near the Ship Rock, also called the Rock with Wings. An endangered type of cactus and solar power is mixed in here, along with witchcraft. “Skinwalkers” are what the Navajos call their witches.
Meanwhile, Jim Chee has been assigned to look after a movie company making a film about zombies in Monument Valley. The old John Wayne movie, “Stagecoach,” is also involved in the plot.
Most of these things, (except the zombies) come together in an unforgettable scene involving a large dog, which might be a skinwalker, and a house on fire. Once again Bernie saves the day and her own life and the life of another.
The old man who is endangered lives near Ship Rock, the Rock with Wings. He does not want solar panels set up to block his view of Ship Rock. He likes the view the way it is. I like these books. I can see into Bernie’s and Jim Chee’s heads in a deeper way than in the original series. As with the Rock with Wings, I like the view. I bet you will too.