Friday, October 4, 2013


Anne Hillerman's Spider Woman's Daughter is everything I hoped it would be—a worthy addition to one of my favorite mystery series.

Navajo Nation Police Officer Bernie Manualito is the only witness to the attempted assassination of Joe Leaphorn. Someone walks up to him and shoots him in the head.

Bernie and her husband Jim Chee investigate the crime. They track those Leaphorn helped convict over the years. They also look at his present clients. He is part-time insurance investigator.

Along the way they live among the breathtaking New Mexico landscape, hills and valleys which have sacred meaning for them.

They also become involved in Leaphorn's last investigation. He was looking into the provenance of sacred pottery. A local museum is about to buy a consignment of sacred pots. Were they authentic? Were they about to be stolen, spirited away from sacred ground? Does that give motive for the murder?

Also, Berni deals with her alcoholic younger sister and their aging mother.

Chee does a partial “sing” at the dying Leaphorn's bedside. That is one of the most moving scenes in the book.

The story ends with both Chee and Manualito at risk.

To me, the book was wonderful. It was very much in the Tony Hillerman tradition with an added benefit. It featured Bernie Manualito.

As always, it was a police procedural, a working together of different officers and police departments, but Berni is the hub about which all of it spins.

So many times when an author (even a relative or good friend) tries to take up an existing series, it doesn't work. Even though the readers might want it to work, it fails.

This book is different. Spider Woman's Daughter is a credit to Anne Hillerman, Tony Hillerman, and to all those characters I've come to love.


Why did the Holy People lead the Dine to a world with so much sorrow?


“Mama told me [Spider Woman] helps with life's unexpected complications, untangling messy situations. When I start to tell her about some hairy case, Mama says, 'Oh, you'll figure out how to weave it all together. You're like Spider Woman's daughter.'”

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