The dead man in the truck looked like just another drunk, so the woman officer who found him filled out the appropriate papers and moved on. When the FBI came a-knocking, it was Sergeant Jim Chee who was on the hot seat about the case. Before long, ex-lieutenant Joe Leaphorn comes out of retirement to reopen a cold case, and our favorite Tribal Police pair is back in action.
The 15th Chee/Leaphorn mystery (after 1999's relatively weak Hunting Badger) finds MWA Grand Master Hillerman back at the top of his form as his two Navajo peace officers look into both a past and present mystery. Religious fervency and single-minded greed become strange but necessary bedfellows in a plot filled, as always, with insights into the lives and beliefs of the "Dineh." When an abandoned pickup truck turns out to contain one very dead white man, Sgt. Jim Chee's instincts lead him to bring retired Lt. Joe Leaphorn into the case. Leaphorn's trademark curiosity sends him in search of possible links between this homicide and another two years earlier. The first murder occurred on Halloween day when Wiley Denton supposedly shot Marvin McKay in self-defense after McKay tried to sell him bogus information about an old gold mine. That same day Denton's wife, Linda, disappeared; she has never been heard from again. Leaphorn's recollection of what had been shrugged off as a Halloween prank out at old Fort Wingate now becomes the itch he has to scratch. It seems a group of teens shortcutting across the area had endured a close call with La Llorana, a mythical wailing woman. The information he gathers adds yet another piece to the puzzle of the missing Linda. Chee is up to his elbows in not only the investigation but also in sorting through his growing emotional confusion about the beautiful Bernadette Manuelito. The seemingly insignificant turns critical and the loose ends tie up in one tidy conclusion as Hillerman repeatedly shines in this masterfully complex new novel. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
After a detour into the memoir genre with his well-received autobiography, Seldom Disappointed, Hillerman returns to his popular Southwestern mystery series. When rookie Navajo police officer Bernie Maneulito is accused of mishandling a murder scene, her superior (and secret crush) Sergeant Jim Chee consults the legendary Lt. Joe Leaphorn for advice. The retired cop is intrigued because the shooting death of Thomas Doherty has links to an old case he once investigated a case that involved the hunt for a legendary gold mine, the killing of a swindler, and the disappearance of a beloved wife. While this mystery is not as compelling as his early novels, Hillerman is still a master at combining fascinating Navajo lore, a hauntingly beautiful setting, and appealing characters into an entertaining read. Buy multiple copies for fans. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/02.] Wilda Williams, "Library Journal" Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Young Officer Bernadette Manuelito of the Navajo Tribal Police is pursuing routine duties when the dispatcher asks her to check out an abandoned truck in an arroyo. Bernie is no longer "the greenest rookie," but when she finds a murder victim she is inexperienced enough to make a big mistake. Still, her interest in botany leads her to collect some plant specimens at the crime scene, and they prove to be important clues. FBI agents soon take over the investigation; they are oblivious to any nuance of place or culture that could lead them to a solution. Sergeant Jim Chee, Bernie's supervisor, characteristically goes his own way. Meanwhile, Wiley Denton, a rich eccentric, has asked retired Lt. Joe Leaphorn to find his missing wife. The investigators set out in different directions, and the distances between them seem as vast and lonely as the New Mexico landscape. Having the advantage of following all three main characters, readers soon know where they are headed; the interest and suspense lie in seeing how these quirky and likable people occasionally glance off one another and exchange crucial information. Finally, Chee, Manuelito, and Leaphorn converge to see the whole picture. Hillerman's fans will enjoy revisiting these characters and their world, but newcomers will miss a lot, and would be better advised to read the earlier stories first.-Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Two years ago, wealthy oil-lease magnate Wiley Denton confessed to shooting Marvin McKay dead—a con man, he testified, whose offer of a partnership in the lost Golden Calf goldmine backfired when he tried to leave Denton's place with the $50,000 down payment in lieu of any legal agreement—pleaded self-defense, and served his time. Case closed for everybody except Joe Leaphorn, retired Legendary Lieutenant of the Navajo Tribal Police, who's always wondered what became of Denton's beautiful young wife Linda, who vanished the day of the killing. Now a second murder has put the case back on the front burner. Officer Bernadette Manuelito has discovered the body of Thomas Doherty, a Forest Service employee who had his old interest in the Golden Calf, in his truck. Trouble is, Bernie didn't realize Doherty was a murder victim and allowed the crime scene to get so trampled that the Apache County Sheriff's Department has grabbed the case away from the Tribal Police. Don't worry about Bernie, though. Before Sgt. Jim Chee, who's awfully attached to her, can work out a way to cover her misstep, she's already found the place where Doherty was killed—and begun an investigation that will link both murders to the rumors of a spectral wailing woman at Fort Wingate the Halloween night that Denton shot McKay. Top-notch detective work by all hands, a solution fully worthy of the puzzle, and all the hard-won wisdom on cultural clashes between Navajos and whites you'd expect from Hillerman (Hunting Badger, 2000, etc.).
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Officer Bernadette Manuelito had been having a busy day, enjoying most of it, and no longer feeling like the greenest rookie of the Navajo Tribal Police. She had served the warrant to Desmond Nakai at the Cudai Chapter House, following her policy of getting the most unpleasant jobs out of the way first. Nakai had actually been at the chapter house, obviating the hunt for him she'd expected, and -- contrary to predictions of Captain Largo -- he had been pleasant about it.
She had dropped down to the Beclabito Day School to investigate a reported break-in there. That was nothing much. A temp maintenance employee had overdone his weekend drinking, couldn't wait until Monday to get a jacket he'd left behind, broke a window, climbed in and retrieved it. He agreed to pay for the damages. The dispatcher then contacted her and canceled her long drive to the Sweetwater Chapter House. That made Red Valley next on her list of stops.
"And Bernie," the dispatcher said, "when you're done at Red Valley, here's another one for you. Fellow called in and said there's a vehicle abandoned up a gulch off that dirt road that runs over to the Cove school. Paleblue king-cab pickup truck. Check the plates. We'll see if it's stolen."
"Why didn't you get the license number from the guy reporting it?"
Because, the dispatcher explained, the report was from an El Paso Natural Gas pilot who had noticed it while flying yesterday afternoon and again this morning. Too high to read the plates.
"But not too high to tell it was abandoned?""Come on, Bernie," the dispatcher said. "Who leaves a car parked in an arroyo overnight unless he stole it for a joyride?" With that he gave her a little better description of the probable location and said he was sorry to be loading her up.
"Sure," said Bernie, "and I'm sorry I sounded so grouchy." The dispatcher was Rudolph Nez, an old-timer who had been the first to accept her, a female, as a fellow cop. A real friend, and she had a feeling he was parceling her out more work to show her he looked on her as a full-fledged officer. Besides, this new assignment gave her a reason to drive up to Roof Butte, about as close as you could drive to ten thousand feet on the Navajo Reservation. The abandoned truck could wait while she took her break there.
She sat on a sandstone slab in a mixed growth of aspen and spruce, eating her sack lunch, thinking of Sergeant Jim Chee, and facing north to take advantage of the view. Pastora Peak and the Carrizo Mountains blocked off the Colorado Rockies, and the Lukachukai Forest around her closed off Utah's peaks. But an infinity of New Mexico's empty corner spread below her, and to the left lay the northern half of Arizona. This immensity, dappled with cloud shadows and punctuated with assorted mountain peaks, was enough to lift the human spirit. At least it did for Bernie. So did remembering the day when she was a brand-new rookie recruit in the Navajo Tribal Police and Jim Chee had stopped here to show her his favorite view of the Navajo Nation. That day a thunderstorm was building its cloud towers over Chaco Mesa miles to the northeast and another was taking shape near Tsoodzil, the Turquoise Mountain of the East. But the rolling grassland below them was bright under the afternoon sun. Chee had pointed to a little gray column of dirt and debris moving erratically over the fields across Highway 66. "Dust devil," she had said, and it was then she had her first glimpse behind Chee's police badge.
"Dust devil," he repeated, thoughtfully. "Yes. We have the same idea. I was taught to see in those nasty little twisters the Hard Flint Boys struggling with the Wind Children. The good yei bringing us cool breezes and pushing the rain over grazing land. The bad yei putting evil into the wind."
She finished her thermos of coffee, trying to decide what to do about Chee. If anything. She still hadn't come to any conclusions, but her mother seemed to have deemed him acceptable. "This Mr. Chee," she'd said. "I heard he's born to the Slow Talking Dineh, and his daddy was a Bitter Water." That remark had come apropos of absolutely nothing, and her mother hadn't expanded on it. Nor did she need to. It meant her mother had been asking around, and had satisfied herself that since Bernie was born to the Ashjjhi Dineh, and for Bead People, none of the Navajo incest taboos were at risk if Bernie smiled at Chee. Smiling was as far as it had gone, and maybe as far as she wanted it to go. Jim Chee was proving hard to understand.
But she was still thinking about him when she pulled her patrol car up the third little wash north of Cove and saw the sun glinting off the back window of a truck-pale blue as described and blocking the narrow track up the bottom of the dry wash.
New Mexico plates. Bernie jotted down the numbers. She stepped out of her car, walked up the wash, noticing the vehicle's windows were open. And stopped. A rifle was in the rack across the back window. Who would walk off and leave that to be stolen?
"Hello," Bernie shouted, and waited.
"Hey. Anyone home?" And waited again.
No answer. She unsnapped the flap on her holster, touched the butt of the pistol, and moved silently to the passenger-side door.
A man wearing jeans and a jean jacket was lying on his side on the front seat, head against the driver-side door, a red gimme cap covering most of his face, knees drawn up a little.
Sleeping one off, thought... The Wailing Wind. Copyright © by Tony Hillerman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.